Note: This is second of a two-part series.

We have this notion that our parents were born as adults.  Frequently, people believe their parents were in charge of themselves when they had children, that their parents knew what they were doing—and that however they behaved around their children, they did so intentionally.  If you harbor resentful, negative or angry emotions about your parents today, it’s important to resolve those feelings, even if your parents are dead.  If you don’t, you will find those emotions seeping into your intimate romantic relationships, and they will inhibit or block your ability to love and be loved.

To resolve resentment you have with your parents, and to make peace with your past, here are some suggestions:  On paper, answer the following questions.  Use as many answers to each question as you can:

  • You (Mom or Dad) often gave me the feeling that I …
  • When you touched or held me, I felt …
  • You gave me the sense that my body was …
  • You gave me the sense that sex was …
  • You gave me the view that men are …
  • You gave me the view that women are …
  • You gave me the view that love is …
  • What I wanted from you growing up that I didn’t get was …
  • One of the ways I am still trying to win your approval is …
  • Growing up, it hurt me when …
  • My childhood has affected my trust of others by…
  • My childhood has influenced my ability to be in an intimate relationship by…
  • You speak through my voice when I tell myself…
  • When I think of some of the ways you’ve influenced my self-concept…
  • When I contemplate your impact on my life and development …
  • If it ever turns out that I don’t need your approval …
  • One of things I would like to be valued and appreciated for is …
  • The ways I would like our relationship to change are …
  • If I had the power to go back to my childhood, I would…
  • I feel sad that …
  • What I’ve been wanting from you all these years is …
  • What I’d like from you now is …

If your parents are alive, ask them what they would have done differently as a parent if they had it to do all over again.  What mistakes do they think they made as parents?

What are they proud of about themselves as parents?

Deciding to forgive your parents means you are choosing to take charge of the relationship—and you are accepting the responsibility for starting the healing process between you and them.  In order to do this, you may have to give up your anger, your resentment, your need to blame and your need to punish them.

We don’t know it when we’re young, but our parent’s neglect, abuse, inattention, disapproval, shaming behavior and lack of affection is not about us.  It’s about them not knowing how to love—and how to parent wisely and effectively.  But letting go of the past—and the resentment you feel—is not primarily for them, but for you.  It’s for your moment-to-moment aliveness, and for your ability to love and to be loved.

Some of these questions were adapted from Nathaniel Branden’s book If You Could Hear What I Cannot Say (Bantam Books).

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