The Psychology of Forgiveness
"Meeting my parents is really annoying me and it’s really toxic. Last time I was there, a small comment from my mother really triggered me and we ended up in arguments. I am actually thinking of breaking up the contact. What shall I do?"
This is a question a lot of clients ask me. It is common that children clash with their parents when they are already adults and have their own family.
The reason behind is that you are still part of the system of your original family and old conflicts and hurt experienced as a child are still alive. In the moment when you're triggered it is that small child inside you that is reacting not you as an adult.
Not you is triggered, but the small child inside you.
As a child you are fully dependent on your parents or caretakers for protection and love. At that time we have not yet developed coping strategies to deal with certain situations or protect ourselves. If basic needs of safety, love and belonging were not met, it creates an imprint that is used in similar situations in life.
Based on this I recommend these four steps on how to handle your parents. These steps you can also adapt to your boss, colleague or partner.
4 Ways How To Reconcile With Your Parents
1.Write a Conciliation letter
Write a letter and list all the needs that were not fulfilled by your parents and all the events that were hurtful for you as a child. Do this separately for each parent, caretaker, classmate etc.
You can use phrases like: “I really felt shame, humiliated, helpless, abandoned, anxious, not loved, not good enough, that you did…” “It still stands between us that you…” or “I resent you, that…”
If it is difficult for you to write you can use the alter ego of a wounded child writing this letter: "One day Jim sat down at his bed and wrote the following letter…"
Do not send this letter to the actual person. This letter is for you. Keep it and reread it all over again and reflect on it to acknowledge the feelings of this child. And one day you will recognize that the emotional load has subsided. Then it is the time to burn the letter or give it into a river to carry it away.
This process can take several weeks to write and finally let go off the emotional load.
Bonus: You can do the same if you have a current issue at your workplace.
You can find templates for this conciliation letter below for immediate. download.
2. See your parents as part of their circumstances
After you have healed the inner child inside you, you are more able to reflect on the circumstances of your parents. Their upbringing? Their relationship with their parents or siblings?
Realize that you never were and never will be the savior of you parents and that you are not able to change your parents.
You can only acknowledge the behavior of your parents, you don't need to approve it.
3. Plan your time with your parents
You are an adult now and you don't depend on your parents. You can respect them for what they are: The people who brought you to this earth.
Decide how often or how long you want to see your parents. If you already know that being in the house (childhood house) together will cause a similar dynamic, go out with them to a restaurant, mall etc. Be aware that you have now the ability to protect yourself and you do not need to let their words in.
4. Shift the Energy in your Family System
With systemic family constellation you can have a closer look at the dynamics and the roles that are still present in your family of origin up to this day.
Your own family members don't need to be present. Participants of such a workshop will stand in for family members.
In this facilitated session you have the opportunity to heal destructive behavior, initiate forgiveness and restore balance in the system.
Systemic constellation work works also in workplace settings.
In order to reconcile with your parents it is important to heal your inner child first so that you can act as an adult to adults.
Know that it is not you the inner child, but the grown up adult.
Direct confrontation with your parents can often cause guilt and defensive behavior in your parents. If you still wish to directly talk to them have the conversation outside your normal gathering and give it a positive preamble (e.g. I want to improve the relationship with you.”
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