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Problem parents

Problem parents

All parents are problems! That may seem a sweeping statement, but the process of separation from one’s parents, and the process of recognising that they are not perfect is often a difficult one to negotiate. A good book on this subject is “In and out of the garbage pail” by Fritz Perls. The essence is that in order to get to a point of living an autonomous life, separate from one’s parents one has to accept them for what they are and how they were with you, warts and all. This is the process of throwing them in the garbage pail. Only once they are in there can you bring them out again and establish a full strength adult to adult relationship with them.

Many clients will be bringing parental issues, often under the surface. Here is a questionnaire I use with them to help ascertain where they are in the process. Awareness, as usual, is the key to allowing for change.

In my relationship with my parents, I believe that:

My parents could not survive without me

I could not survive without my parents

It is my job to keep my parents contented

I am responsible for my parents

If I do not make my parents proud, I have failed

My parents expect certain things from me and if I don’t provide them they would be devastated

My parents are stronger than me

I should not upset my parents

I cannot tell my parents everything about me for fear of their reaction

They would not listen to me

If they knew how much they had hurt me I would feel better

My parents always did their best and that is all that matters

I fight with my parents all the time

If a client ticks more than three of these, there is work to do!

Here again we find ourselves looking at appropriate responsibility. Here are some things your client was not responsible for:

Being neglected/ignored/abused/bullied

Feeling unloved or unlovable

Other people’s cruelty

Other people’s problems

Other people’s unhappiness

Other people’s choices

But clients are responsible for how he/she felt then and feels now. The past is unchangeable and those reactions are as they were. But there is choice from this point on.


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