In parts one through four, I’ve explained how when we have unhealthy love habits, including being involved with unavailable people who offer the least likely prospect of a committed relationship and people who seek to take advantage and abuse our boundaries, it’s because we’re dating reflections of our parents. In part four, I covered four big lessons I’ve learned about healing from emotionally unavailable parents that help you gain perspective. In this final post in the series, I share some final lessons as well as details of how to get your free Unsent Letter Guide.

We have to grow up.

I had to stop being the five-year-old that couldn’t comprehend her father not visiting the hospital or, in later years, just not being around and disappointing me. I had to stop being nervous of my mother and create boundaries, and also stop being a teenager scared of being criticised and at the same time seeking validation and approval. No more looking for confirmation that I was loveable and doing things ‘right’ at last.

I went back to university when I was twenty-three. I wanted to prove that I could get a degree; that I was the Good and Lovable Daughter my mother wanted, not a disappointment or a failure. I finished my degree and waited for the amazing feeling to arrive and the sense of accomplishment. My mum uttered words that I’d wanted to hear for so long; she was proud of me. Coupled with declarations of love, I should have been skipping around with validation joy. Instead, I felt nothing.

The fact that I felt nothing only made me feel worse. I was so angry with myself initially because I really wanted this ‘feeling’. One day it suddenly occurred to me that the reason why I didn’t feel anything was that not only had I done the degree for the wrong reasons, but it turned out, I no longer needed or wanted the approval and validation I’d yearned for. I had to validate and approve myself.

If you’re trapped in an unhealthy cycle with one or both of your parents, one of the primary means of getting out of it is allowing yourself to grow up.

This means nurturing that child within you while at the same time pulling it into the present day so that you can own your experience. You get to reclaim your power.

Often in my adult interactions with my parents, I haven’t been my actual adult age. Instead, I’ve reverted to being a nervous teen. In speaking with various readers, I know I’m not alone. They become moody, petulant teenagers, fawning five-year-olds, or have screaming rows that reduce them to feeling like they’re having a tantrum.

I’ve said it many times: if we want a situation to change, it’s our own change we have to deal with because we cannot control others.

I’ve reached the conclusion that my mother’s been ‘her way’ for fifty-three years. If she’s comfy that way and happy with the results, I’m not going to hound her to step out of her comfort zone. Likewise, my father can get all nostalgic about when I was a little girl that literally hung off his coattails in admiration. He can pretend that there’s no problem and that he hadn’t deeply hurt me.

My reality, though, is different. I’m not comfortable playing roles that they’re comfortable with me playing, so I’m going to be me. If our relationship can evolve out of that, great. It has, to a degree, with my dad). But if me having boundaries doesn’t work for my parents, I’m okay with continuing to raise my adult self without them around me.

Hold up your end of things by making sure that you don’t make it any easier for them by playing your learned role in the dynamic and ultimately acting like a child.

We’re all too old to have the level of expectation that we do from either of our parents. We can’t get that time back and quite frankly, much like when you try to tell a Mr Unavailable or assclown the who, what, where, when and whys of where you’re at and what you think, you are wasting time. You could talk till you’re blue in the face but people see and hear whatever the hell they want to. Stop trying to control people’s opinions of you. They should be more worried about your opinion of them.

We have to make peace with ourselves.

I had no idea how angry I was with both of my parents until I went through the recovery process from my illness and it was explained to me that I really needed to clear the anger and forgive. Forgive what? I thought. Even starting to think, though, about some of the long-buried memories made me feel like elephants were standing on my chest and that my head was being squeezed between clamps.

I wanted to run from the room. But I stayed and, actually, acknowledging that:

  1. I was hurt
  2. I was really bloody pissed off
  3. I had a right to be hurt and pissed off, but
  4. My parents were and are not infallible and that
  5. The anger and hurt was derailing and debilitating me was a wake-up call

I won’t lie, there was no complicated process for me about letting go of my anger.

Until I acknowledged that I was angry and hurt, I didn’t realise that I carried around these burdens.

Imagine all the things you’re pissed off with them about; all the things that hurt, that frustrate, the disappointments. Now imagine each and every individual thing is an item of clothing. How much of this stuff can you walk around with before you feel hot, clammy, overburdened, laden down, trapped, weighty, defeated, difficult to walk, difficult to breathe, etc?

Much like when I’ve talked about letting go of excess baggage and getting down to hand baggage, there is really only so much you can hold onto. You can try and carry all of this stuff with you all the time, but what is the point?

This is not to say that many of these things are not hurtful things that happened to me that don’t raise an occasional grit of the teeth from me, but they do not have power and effect in my present day, or I keep it to the minimum. My parents may not have emotionally schooled me that well, but as an adult, I’m responsible for all of my relationship insanity with assclowns and Mr Unavailables.

Take each item, inspect it, ask yourself how it changed your perception of you, give it some perspective and make peace with you about it.

When I went through some of my stuff, like remembering buying my mother a gift at the Christmas fair when I was fourteen and her laughing like crazy at me and ridiculing it(you cannot make this shit up!), I actually hadn’t realised how that memory had stuck or how much it hurt. If you’re curious, it was a wooden crafted ornamental thing.

Thinking about it from the perspective of a fourteen-year-old insecure teen desperate for her mother’s love, approval, and just one day where she wouldn’t critique me, the rejection stings. I felt very hurt because not only did she laugh at me, she compared my gift to my brother’s and kept bringing up the gift long into my twenties. I felt like an idiot, but I also felt like some sort of idiotic black sheep that not only couldn’t please her mother but couldn’t even manage to get a gift right. Every year after that, I felt panicked about buying gifts and spent silly money trying to please her, scared each time of her reaction. Even when she started to compliment my gifts, I felt wary. It took me a long time to stop worrying about giving gifts to anyone. I thought it was the money not the thought that counts…

But thinking about it when I was 28 or 33 now, with some perspective and experience behind me, I realised how ridiculous and uncaring it was for a mother to treat her child in that way and it’s actually laughable. I doubt she even realised how it came across, not then, or the many years that she continued to bring it up, but the incident reflects on her, not me. I thought about the gifts or just things I’d done for people, not because I expected something but just because I wanted to, and I knew I wasn’t an idiot or unworthy. Her reaction just isn’t your ‘average’ way of reacting to being given a gift and while she didn’t have to do cartwheels, it was ungrateful and unkind. By the same token, I realised I had to stop taking it to heart and either give whole-heartedly or not at all and over the years, I’ve got better, stopped spending lots, and actually went with less is more. If she didn’t like it, tough.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, But I’m angry! How can I move on?! I’ve talked about the power of the unsent letter before on the blog and have also written about it in my ebooks and I’ve put together a mini-ebook and worksheet, The Unsent Letter Guide. In it, I explain how writing out your anger helps you move on and make peace. It also includes tips and a handy worksheet with prompts.

Your thoughts?

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