Mainstream sources often paint parents as beyond criticism, but most men had different childhood experiences than the picture perfect image created by Hallmark. I’ve written about the problems of American childhood before, but I’ve also written about using negative experiences for a positive purpose. Since mother’s day was this past week, many of you may have recently called or spent time with families you do not get along with. Here’s how to heal that relationship.
Who Are You Angry At?
When someone apologized to the Buddha for a previous insult, he said “don’t worry, those people no longer exist.” What Buddha meant was that the person who was apologizing to him now was different from the person he was when he insulted Buddha earlier, and that Buddha himself was a different person than he was when he received the insult.
The Buddhist doctrine of reincarnation is misunderstood. It is not that you travel between lifetimes, but that you actually die and are reincarnated in each moment. If one cell is replaced in the body, you are a different person. Since your body is constantly changing, you are actually a completely new person moment to moment, and every change is a total change.
While this may seem esoteric, for me it was actually the key to forgiving my parents. I began meditating and studying zen shortly after moving out of my family’s house, and needed a way to handle my anger. Over time, I realized that the family I was angry at was not the family I knew now, but the family I had when I was a child.
In the present, I consider my parents close friends, but when I was a child my parents were clueless twenty-somethings with no idea how to raise a kid. After twenty years parenting experience, they’re much better at the job, but when they started they were clueless. The parents I was angry at were not the parents I have now, but the parents that existed twenty years ago.
Furthermore, the “me” that was angry at them was not the present me, but the me that existed when I was a child. At the present, I’m a highly capable adult, who can take care of himself. As a child, I depended on my family for love and survival, and when either need felt threatened I resented them for it, and created negative patterns to compensate. The me that was angry in the present was not the adult me, but stuck energy from when I was a child.
Letting Go Of Stuck Energy
Intelligent men are often tempted use clever rationalizations to ignore what they are actually feeling. Arthur Janov, the founder of primal therapy, calls these rationalizations defenses. Once you understand them, they’re pretty easy to spot. When someone says, “I hate my parents, but…” the “but” is a defense, or a qualifying statement used to avoid feeling the full emotion. It would be easy to dismiss childhood feelings by saying “I hate my parents, but they’re different people now” and use Buddha’s wisdom to avoid moving stuck energy.
Healing any pattern requires two things – becoming aware of the pattern and letting go of it. Our culture has a prohibition against any anger against women, particularly mothers. The phrase”mommy issues” is more often hurled as an insult against men than used in healing context, despite that fact most almost every man and woman I know has some issue that can be traced back to childhood experiences. The stigma against criticizing women and mothers actually silences men’s feelings and prevents them from healing.
Psychologists know that it is not the hurt or anger but the defense against it that causes suffering. If you are experiencing resentment against someone, try allowing it flow through you in a way that does not harm the other person or yourself. Amplify it ten times. Express it fully. Most people cannot maintain fully expressed rage for more than two minutes without it giving way to another emotion or new realization.
There are hundreds of healing modalities and artistic outlets that can move stuck energy. A major misconception about healing work or psychology is that it is all about “blaming your parents” for your life. In reality, it is about taking full responsibility for your life, rather than living the patterns your family established for you. Get help if necessary, and heavily qualify whoever helps your. You wouldn’t let anyone who wasn’t qualified repair your car or run your finances. Hold the person who works on your soul to an even higher standard of care.
Dealing With The Present
Americans are incredibly defensive about any criticism of their parenting skills, particularly when that criticism comes from the recipient of those parenting skills. Acknowledging wrongdoing as a parent means letting go of the narcissistic self-image of being a good parent and actually becoming one. Unfortunately, narcissists often make terrible parents, and we have a generation of narcissists raised by the greatest generation of narcissists.
For this reason, even if you let go of anger against your family, they may not apologize for or recognized the harm they’ve done. In fact, many family members will continue to act out the same negative patterns they established when you were young, and resist any change or personal growth that would cause either person to shift the previous power dynamic.
If you family is continuing to act out old patterns in the present, you have to set boundaries. While moving stuck energy is helpful, if you don’t behave differently now you’ll get more energy you have to shift. Standing up for yourself in the present will not only make your life better, it will affirm that you are no longer a child, but an adult who can protect himself.
Call your family out when they belittle you. Cut them out of your life if they cannot comply. Let them know what behavior is required if they wish to participate in your life, and that they can take it or leave it. Have the same frame you’d have when qualifying any other relationship in your life. You are on your path, and your purpose, and anyone who supports that ride is welcome to join, and anyone who doesn’t is welcome to leave. If this sounds like the same frame to have when handling women, that’s because it is.
Changing Your Family
It’s said that in spiritual circles that “the world is your mirror” and that everyone you meet is simply reflecting your own energy back to you. I noticed when I changed who I was, everyone around me changed as well, including my parents. When I began setting boundaries with my family, and they began showing up differently. Unable to get what they wanted through manipulation, the genuine care my family had for me came through.
I saw that my parents were actually just very afraid I would turn out badly, and thought controlling and scaring me would protect me from negative influences like sex, drugs, and masculinity. Of course, because the energy we put out is what we get back, their fear made me rebellious and angry.
When confronted with the choice between losing me or participating in my life on more loving terms, my family realized how much they wanted to be a part of my life. When I let go of the resentment I had towards the people they used to be, I was able to accept them as they are. Now, I consider my family to be close friends, and enjoy spending time with them.
If you change who you are, let go of past resentments, and set new boundaries, don’t be surprised if your family starts showing up differently. In fact, don’t be surprised if everyone in your life starts showing up differently. This process of can be used on any relationship. Change yourself, and you change your world.
Read More: Taking The Red Pill Destroyed My Family