Monday, 22 June 2015

Letting go and forgiving our parents

I met a wonderful woman the other day. She is passionate, loyal and kind-hearted but she also carries a heavy burden. She is attached to the notion that it's her responsibility to fight against evil and for over ten years she's devoted her life to fighting the system, moving from one protest site to another, living from skips, sleeping in make-shift shelters, living under a false name. Always putting the needs of the cause before her own.

When she was young there was a lot of violence in her family. She and her younger sister developed different ways of coping with the fact that as children there was no way for them to prevent this violence, and no way to protect themselves or their loved ones. The younger sister seeks to defend others from such harm, and is training to become a police officer. My friend has taken a different path, but the burden is the same. Both feels it is their responsibility to prevent evil from taking place. Although one perceives this evil in men who commit domestic violence and the other sees it in the domination of multi-national corporations over nature, both are projecting their feelings of failure and inadequacy onto the outside world instead of facing it within themselves.

We all know the saying, 'the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children,' and we've all seen this principle at work in our own lives. Our parents, bless them, never had a chance to rehearse their roles as mums and dads. They were simply thrown into the task and we are the result of their failings, as well as their many successes. Sometimes, in situations where parents are under a lot of stress, or not mature enough to deal skillfully with the challenges of parenthood, the failings are very great and children grow up carrying around all sorts of misconceived ideas about themselves and the world around them. In fact if we look closely at ourselves we find that almost everyone is carrying around some kind of burden bequeathed on them by their parents. 

My friend grew up watching violence she could do nothing about and at some point her little mind was made up: there was no way she was going to let that sort of thing happen again. This makes logical sense to a child, but what it translates to in her adult life makes no logical sense at all. Instead of recognising that evil has been a part of human history since we made our first faltering steps on this planet, and likely will be until we breathe our last, she devotes all her energy to struggling fruitlessly against it, exhausting herself with one failed fight after another.

As with all projection, my friend has an inner conflict that she is externalising. Instead of looking directly at the anger and pain she carries inside her, she directs it into the outside world. Until she can reconcile this conflict her struggle against evil will never cease. Nor will it bring about the justice for which she strives. This is because she will not allow herself justice. For what does a frightened child need but nurturing, freedom to play, to be creative and to be loved. Instead she berates herself for even the smallest acts of selfishness. Taking a break from the cause after so many years is a cause to feel guilty. She feels herself to be a sell-out for wanting a home, the small comforts of warmth, good food and stability.

By recognising where we are carrying burdens unwittingly left to us by our parents, and withdrawing the projections we've created to shift responsibility away from ourselves, we are empowered to enjoy fully the abundant, joyful life and creative life that is waiting for us. When we can see our parents flaws as human instead of looking at them through the idealistic lens that expects perfection, we see they were doing the best they could with what they had. We can forgive them and free ourselves from this unwanted inheritance.

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