I used to joke around that I was adopted or switched at birth. At least that would explain why I never quite felt a sense of connection to my family and why I never felt like I could be around them for too long, despite how much I wanted to.
If you asked, they would probably say I was mean, weird, different, or cold. Sometimes I couldn’t help but think that was true. Whereas my friends had a great relationship with their parents and siblings, I isolated myself from my family as much as possible. I went as far as booking last vacations during the holidays to avoid spending too much time with them. “Love from a distance” was my motto.
But it wasn’t only family relationships. Friendships and romantic relationships proved to be difficult as well. And when I think about it, I realize that I’ve been that way since I was a small child. Growing up I got in trouble for the smallest things and constantly felt like I could never do anything right. The times I did speak up resulted in me getting my ass beat for being “rude”. From a young age, I learned to protect myself by shutting down, distancing myself, and isolating. I guess those behaviors translated into my adult relationships as well because to this day, I still have that wall up. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I have such a hard time with relationships. How could I possibly get close to people if I wasn't even willing to let them in?
“Children should be heard and not seen” is something that many of us heard growing up – particularly those of us who grew up in a Caribbean culture. Within Caribbean culture, as within many other cultures, there are many practices, beliefs, ideas, and traditions that are passed down from generation. Unfortunately, many of these practices and beliefs are outdated, unhealthy, or just plain dysfunctional.
Many of us can agree that our parents did the best they could with the tools, skills, resources, and awareness they had. Unfortunately, many of our parents were also misinformed. They were not reading self-books, watching webinars, or going to therapy. Many were lacking essential skills such as communication, love and affection, emotional support, stress management, financial planning, and relationship skills that are necessary to raise healthy, secure, confident children. They raised us the same way they were raised, with the same conditioning and programming they grew up with, not realizing the impact it would have on our mental health, relationships, and career and how destructive it would be to our self-esteem, self-worth, self-expression, and self-confidence.
Many of us would agree that our parents fucked us up. And while we can certainly blame them it doesn’t change the past nor does it help us create a new outcome. It only keeps us stuck in victim mode. It’s unfortunate that many of us did not get the love, attention, support, validation, and everything else we wanted and needed growing up. It’s unfortunate that many of us have a nonexistent relationship with our parents and families. It’s unfortunate that many of us as adults lack certain skills because we weren’t taught those skills as children.
But even with the challenges and limitations we endured during childhood, many of us have found a way to thrive. We are the way we are because of our relationship with our family of origin. And while that has been an obstacle or hindrance to many, it’s also been motivation and inspiration.
Many of us were able to define what being in a healthy, meaningful relationship entails because we know what it was like to be in a dysfunctional, unhealthy childhood. Many of us were able to develop a strong work ethic and learned financial responsibility because we know what it was like to grow up in poverty. Many of us went to school and chose certain professions strictly based on the experiences we had growing up.
While we can blame our parents, there’s also a lot we can thank them for. Many of us are also here to help break the dysfunctional cycles and patterns that have been in our families for generations. And doing so begins with us taking accountability for our lives and doing the work that is necessary to heal ourselves and move forward. But that’s often easier said than done – particularly when you are still triggered and/or traumatized by your relationship with your parents, caregivers, and/or family of origin. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful tools we can use to heal ourselves and reclaim our power. But before we can get to a place of forgiveness many of us need empathy, support, understanding, and acceptance.
If you feel you are still struggling or suffering from experiences you had with your family of origin and you are ready to heal and move forward consider doing a Transformational Coaching Session. Click here for more details.
The coping skills we developed in childhood often become relationship blocks in adulthood,
Confessions of a Therapist
Disclaimer: all blog posts are fictional and are not reflective of any of my clients. All information disclosed during sessions is confidential and protected by law.