Paying It Forward

I am a therapist and it is my job to courageously guide people down dark, often lonely paths reconciling their childhood experiences.  Most of my clients grew up in homes where parents suffered from untreated mental illness and/or addictions and my clients suffered deeply at the constant barrage of stress, chaos and let down.  

Through tears and anger there comes a point where my clients question whether or not they should continue to speak to their parents or they wonder if they should cut them off completely.  In a world of polarized thinking, constant reacting and complete misunderstanding of boundaries, it’s no wonder my clients believe that annihilation of the parent child relationship is the only choice for emotional freedom, but this is not true.

5 Steps to Identify and Pay Forward Your Positive Childhood Experiences

Reflection

Are you happy with the quality of the interactions you have with your parents? What do you wish was different?

The Sacredness Of The Bond

Parents are not like friends and spouses, we cannot completely separate from them without experiencing profound consequences.  It’s not just a relationship that will be severed, it is a sacred, emotional, spiritual and chemical bond and this bond is a part of our survival instinct. It is a bond constructed by nature to insure life, it is the reason we are alive.

The annihilation of the parent and adult-child bond therefore should never be taken lightly and unless in cases of extreme abuse, it is worth continuing to heal deeply enough that the pain, resentment, fear and trauma have been overcome.  It is only on the other side of the trauma that my clients will begin to think clearly enough to assess what their parents role will now be in their life.

Reflection

Where do you need healing in your relationship with your parents?

Finding the Love

So what choice do we have when we come from abusive households? Unless your parent is a total loss and socio-pathic it is worth healing beyond the profound pain and disappointment in order to find the health and the love.Not every minute of childhood was lost, there are those moments, even if they were bookended by pain, that are worth holding onto. We are shaped by our experiences and our reactions to them, not just the bad but also the good.

Many of my most vivid memories are of spending time in the wilderness with my father.  He would take my brother and I on long, wandering walks through the Ohio state parks jumping on rocks and crossing rivers.  Out of this no doubt grew my deep love for nature and my experience of it as a personal refuge, I am deeply grateful that he exposed me to the wonder and awe of our natural world.

And Christmas in my childhood home was a time like no other. My mother was an amazing Italian cook and Christmas time meant enjoying a full-on Italian feast while surrounded by beautiful decorations, a massive tree adorned with thousands of colorful lights, cookies, sweets and hundreds of presents.  It was always a magical time for me where everyone was happy.

Reflection

In what specific ways did your parents express their love to you? As a child when were you most happy?

 

Paying It Forward

Upon reflection I can see the memories of health and of love that I have made a conscious effort to pay forward into my children’s lives. It is no wonder that my children spend more time outside than many of their peers.  Family days for us mean hiking on the verdant, mossy Oregon trails or running amuck on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. And every holiday season I decorate obnoxiously, dole out the gifts and cook fragrant meals while listening to Frank Sinatra.

Paying it forward is about carrying over the love and the positive experiences of my childhood while letting go of the negative. It is these collections of joyful memories that have helped shape who I am and they are sacred to me. They are what I have allowed to continue on from a childhood now long gone and yet they are a part of the foundation of my identity and my humanness.

Reflection

What traditions do you carry forward to your children that you learned growing up? What negative behaviors do you need to leave behind?

Forgiving

It is with deep emotional and psychological maturity that we are able to forgive despite the transgressions that we have experienced. And forgiving is very different from ignoring. When we ignore or brush aside what was our truth, no matter it’s pain, then we are more likely to pass on the abuse that was inflicted upon us.

It then becomes paramount that we sift through our experiences, pulling the good from the bad and make a conscious decision which ones will forever belong in our life and in our children’s lives and which ones are to be let go.

Despite everything, forgive, find the love and pass it on.

How to Find and Pay Forward Your Positive Childhood Experiences

  • Reconcile your anger or frustrations you have with your parents with therapists or religious council
  • Make a list of positive experiences you had as a child
  • Connect yourself and your children to your family by carrying forward traditions through baking, crafts, music and stories
  • If your family is difficult to be around, spend time with them when they are at their best, on vacations, holidays, at favorite restaurants, or at religious events
  • Create ways your children can positively connect with their family by sending grandparents photos, cards, letters or brief phone/video chatting

Originally posted in Modern Alternative Mama