I was born of goodly parents… I was lucky, or blessed, or charmed, or whatever. Like all good parents, my parents messed me up. They couldn’t help it. Even the best of parents mess up their kids. It isn’t possible to raise kids in a bubble, especially not in a new country created by and for WW2 survivors. How ironic that I should marry someone raised by a direct WW2 survivor. “Lessons will be repeated until they are learned…” even if it takes the next generation to learn them.
Wendy Ulrich says that parenting is one of the things so worth doing, that it is worth doing imperfectly. I feel this has been true for me. I too have messed up my kids. I, too, am a good parent.
When my children first started disclosing their abuse I rushed to therapy. Again, I was lucky/blessed. I found a good one. I didn’t feel I needed therapy myself, I wanted therapy for my kids. But the therapist made it clear that my children would only heal within the limits of my healing while in my care. My first duty was to heal myself. I wasn’t sure what I needed healing for or from. I was fine, my kids were a mess, and I needed support.
My therapist was good at telling me that things would get worse before they would get better. It wasn’t a self fulfilling prophesy, she was just speaking from her clinical experience. And indeed, things got much, much worse! Critical Mass has a way of bringing out all the stuff a person has denied and stuffed all their lives.
Nightmares, flashbacks, awareness of cognitive dissonance, it all started getting in the way of living! It still get’s in the way. But I was given tools to deal with these setbacks. One of my most powerful tools has been championing my inner child.
John Bradshaw’s technique of championing is very in-depth and powerful. I will share the gist of it.
Basically, I go back in my mind to my memory as a capable adult and save my younger self from her painful memories. I become my own savior. In saving myself, I have had to educate and mentor my young parents (in my memories) as to the best way to raise moi! Before I could do that I had to get to know myself, and slowly, I’ve been doing just that. The more I learn, the more I am able to go back, rescue myself, and mentor the good parents in my memories. Every time I do that, I learn to be a better parent myself. Because the apple does not fall far from the tree. My boys are individuals, but they have tiny little mirrors in them capturing fragments that very much resemble me.
What sort of memories have I healed? **start playing Chariots of Fire or Eye of the Tiger in your mind here** Some of the more painful memories had nothing to do directly with my parents. Those are actually a little easier because I don’t know or recognize any of the the players. I end up just killing them all and rescuing little me. It’s violent and satisfying. (For those concerned with the violence, think of it as killing a memory, not a real person–I don’t even kill spiders in real life!) I eliminated the terrorist that planted the bombs in the amusement park before he could build the bombs and place them. Fewer haunting dreams of watching him plant the bombs, less guilt for being too uncertain to report, less wondering who was hurt or who died while I obliviously was on my ride and the bombs exploded.
Other memories were trickier, but doable. I informed my mom of the military exercises coming up in her language of birth, so she didn’t have to sit in the porch all night with an Uzi crying her eyeballs out, thinking that she might have to use it. I filled up the memory with a fun family game inside the house, all piling together waiting for the sirens to die down. Yes, you have to fill in the void of the bad memory removed and fill it up with something beautiful.
Tougher still, I have to negotiate between Yuval (our angry neighbor) and my mother, so that he doesn’t plow down the rose garden she worked so hard to plant. What a jerk!! But I think maybe planting the garden in a different spot is the best solution…I don’t know, I’m still working in that one. The helplessness of that memory haunts me still.
I have gone back to give positive affirmations to my young self regarding her art. I have gone back to pre-pubescent self and explain and few things that I really never understood. It has prevented some very uncomfortable and confusing feelings as a teen.
I have even gone back to train my young-mother-self and helped her with her new baby, explaining his disabilities, comforting her that it wasn’t her fault and teaching her how to care for her beautiful infant more effectively. I kept her from trying to cook while the baby was in the front facing snugly, preventing that horrid burn on his calf. The baby went in the swing instead…he loved that swing.
I have tried to reason with my former self regarding taking in foster children, and regarding her blind trusting faith in her religion. I’m am still working on that one. I can’t seem to change people, even my former self. I can only go back and champion instances where I needed a hero, and none was available. I will figure it out.
So this is one of my tools in my toolbox of healing. It’s a little strange, but for me, it is powerful. It isn’t denial. It is acknowledging the bad memories, the trauma, the things my mind wont let go of. Then replacing the nightmare with a positive image of my strong self doing things, fixing things, taking her power back, making positive changes.
*Air fist pump* Yessssss!