Step 1: I admit my injuries
In the 16th and 17th centuries, alchemists were looking for the "philosopher's stone", the miracle cure that would transform base metals into gold or silver. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a miracle cure that would simply turn all our negative feelings into love?
We make an effort, we are nice and good - and then we love. Many people are trying to do that.
But the path to love leads through the negative right through the middle. There is no way around it. That is why the first step on the path to reconciliation is to acknowledge your own wounds.
Of course we can cheat ourselves past the negative to feel loved and loving. But such a love has little substance; it is more a "honey over shit", as the Americans drastically express it.
Since no parents are perfect - including ours - they have wounded us.
There are the obvious cases. One couple fights permanently, finally gets divorced and both pull the children into their fight.
Or parents were hardly or not at all there for the child because of business, profession or own interests.
Parents give a child up for adoption. Or a father abandons the mother with the child.
The reasons can also be tragic: a child dies and the parents cannot get over their grief, so that they hardly notice the surviving child anymore.
Or a child is handicapped - all the parents' attention goes to this child and everyone else has to stand back.
Similar experiences are made by the first children when a sibling comes shortly after. The child is dethroned - without understanding why. Suddenly there is no longer the constant attention, it only has a minor role at first and feels rejected.
In addition to such obvious injuries, there are also events in everyday life that cause severe wounds. Almost every child experiences one or more situations at some point in his early childhood, in which it decides to close its heart in the future in order not to be hurt even more.
There are key experiences in which a child has been beaten, abused, betrayed or shamed. From the outside, the event may not have seemed particularly bad, but from the inside, it was experienced like a stab in the back. By developing our personality and character, we cope with these experiences.
But isn't childhood the happiest time of our lives?
Pope Benedict tells a little girl at the 2012 World Meeting of Families: "I imagine that in paradise it will be like it was in my youth, my childhood. We were happy in this environment of trust, joy and love. Even if Benedict remembers it that way, that's only half the truth. Children are open. That is why they experience happy moments without limits. But just as unrestrained are the unhappy ones! These are then later forgotten and repressed.
The total paradise of childhood is only a myth. Childhood had been heaven - and hell.
We still carry the old wounds around with us. Maybe they are scarred. But when the scar is touched, the pain buried there comes back up.
If it is similar for every child - should or can I not simply forgive the parents?
Nowadays it sometimes appears as a moral demand. As a loving, mature person, you should forgive your parents generously and wisely!
If only it were that simple. Forgiving parents seems to be an extremely difficult thing to do.
I have experienced people who were searching for the universal, cosmic love within themselves. They strove for the love of life on earth, of plants, of animals and of all people. But many missed someone: the parents were excluded.
It is probably easier to love the whole of humanity at once than to love one's own parents ...
Maybe you understand your parents, too. You can see that they couldn't have acted any differently back then. So you think you're at peace with them and your past.
I have my doubts.
Do you possibly understand your parents too well? Or more specifically: Do you understand them too quickly? There is an understanding that I call "apologetic understanding". And it's not healing for you!
Take a three-year-old child in the defiance phase whose mother feels provoked by the child in the supermarket. With a huge rage, the mother grabs the child by the shoulder, squeezes the arm and hisses at him with a deadly angry look: "Now just shut up, or something else will happen!”
The child screams in indignation because the violent grip hurts so much. The pressure intensifies; the mother's look becomes even angrier. Suddenly the child is frightened and starts to cry.
It was a shock for the child, it really got scared. And as much as parents today try hard to avoid such subtle, hidden violence, children have the ability to draw that trait out of their parents.
After leaving the supermarket, the now calmer mother explains to the child, who is still crying, "Don't cry anymore. It just happened to me because I am so stressed and because you were so unruly. Mommy means well with you, understand that."
She wants to make peace again.
The poor child is now doubly challenged. First of all, it must master the pain and fear and calm down.
Then it should now also understand the mother.
Let us suppose that the child struggles to achieve this kind of understanding. "Yes, mom, I understand. You mean well, actually."
Does that change the original horror and pain? Does it undo anything? Does it help the child in any way?
No! But it has the effect that the mother can now feel good again.
The understanding of the child is like absolution, which relieves the mother of her feeling of guilt.
The understanding the mother thus becomes a suffocating blanket of cuddles that paralyses, indeed forbids, the original first impulses.
Shortly after the situation in the supermarket, the child remembers it and the anger and disappointment rise again. But then the stop comes! "I have to understand the mom, she means well."
These thoughts weaken and raise a smoke screen. Anger and fear disappear in the cellar. They become "exiles". This is the name given by the method of the Inner Family System (IFS) to these suppressed sides, which belong to the structure of one's own personality.
So there is the part of the angry and frightened child. Then above that there is the part of the child that understands the mother. With the understanding the original reaction is suppressed.
Yes, the child may even feel guilty now because there is still anger. "I'm a bad child when I'm angry at my mother, who means well by that!"
If you "apologetically understand" your parents, then these dynamics are running their course. It's good for your parents because it takes the pressure off.
But you're suppressing the part of you that has a natural right to be upset. This indignation is a great source of strength because it connects elementarily with early spontaneous feelings, with anger and power.
Find the courage to not understand your parents!
Instead, take heart and understand more about the injured child you once were. Stand by your bad experiences as a child!
Imagine that as a child you had an absolute right to the best education and development, a right to the best parents in the world! Feel this elementary right pre-programmed deep inside yourself.
Allow yourself to blame the parents!
If you were once totally unfair - what accusations can you think of?
Dare to relentlessly make blame for everything that has gone wrong! Your sentences can begin with
"It was not right of you to..."
"It hurt me so much that you ..."
Or even "I blame you for the fact that back then..."
Maybe even "It was so cruel that you ..."
Risk calling a spade a spade. Maybe it's difficult, but don't give up. Make a first and second and third try.
Once you have tried blaming, you feel what inner reaction rises next.
Are you scared?
Does this violate a taboo?
Do you feel guilty?
The fears, guilt and self-reproach are the old barriers you have erected between you and your original feelings and your original vitality.
I suggest you write a letter to father or mother. The title of the letter is "What I've never told you before." You take a quiet hour and just write down what still weighs on you from the past. "Dear Papa, it is still between us that you..."
Maybe something comes to your mind where you have unfairly hurt even the parents. Then write that down too and that you're sorry now (if that's true!).
Take your time with the letter. It can be written over several weeks.
Important: It is not a letter that you throw into the mailbox afterwards and send it!
This letter serves to gain more clarity yourself and to free forces that still hold you in the past.
Find a good place for the letter and keep it there. Remember the letter from time to time.
At some point you feel that you can let go of the letter with its reproaches now.
Find a good way to do this too! Bury it, burn it, let it drift on a river into the distance and sink somewhere in the depths.
Why parents are so important
When is someone at peace with his parents?
My personal background
Part 1: Love in the depths
Tensions between parents and children are part of human development
Do really a l l parents love their children?
All children love their parents
Must parents change so that a child can come in peace with them?
Being good parents to your children
Part 2: The 7 steps to come in peace with father and mother
Step 1: I admit my injuries
Step 2: I discover more of my similarity to my father and mother
Step 3: I look at mother and father with the adult's eyes
Step 4: I realize that lack of love has nothing to do with me personally
Step 5: I respect and honor my mother and father
Step 6: I am grateful for what I have received from father and mother
Step 7: I thank mother and father for life
Practical exercises: The 7 step
Part 3: Obstacles on the path to love
The child in the field of tension between father and mother
Entanglements with ancestors
Suffering extreme injuries from the parents: How parents destroy the instinctive bond
Practical exercises: Overcoming obstacles
Withdrawing from the tensions between
father and mother
Dissolving entanglements with ancestors
Final image: Being at peace
Part 4: The love of the grown child
When your parents grow old
How do I deal with the new insights?
1st review on amazon for the German edition, August 21, 2020
There are many guidebooks and I have read many - also good ones. Out of professional interest and also because I wanted to know what I would like to pass on to clients when they ask for literature. Finally, of course, for me as well :-)
Especially in these covid-irritated times, I think it is very important to shed light on how we deal with fear, and Ulsamer ties this always helpful book to today. Fear always has something to do with phenomena that elude our control, create insecurity or make orientation difficult.
It has become a concentrated and easy-to-read book with an accessible language. The exercises come from different areas of therapy and counseling and integrate thinking and body perception. Ulsamer emphasizes that he applies or has applied this extract of exercises himself. They are written from experience, and you can see that. I find this important for a counsellor - but it is not always self-evident.
All exercises are embedded in a short text that explains the background, why this or that fear has been "successful" so far and what strategy we unconsciously pursue with it. For example, how we ourselves, through our automatic chains of thought, still fuel our fear of a situation. This fear may have a realistic reason, such as losing one's job in an economically uncertain time for the industry we work in. As a rule, we then set up chains of worries according to the following pattern: If A - then B could ... If B - then C could ... The next step would be that "I could lose my job" becomes "I will lose my job" and we are in panic ... So how do we avoid this destructive thought game that makes us more incapable of action than we need? Because what we want to do is to take the good reasons for fear seriously and, if necessary, to take smart precautions instead of getting caught up in worst-case scenarios. Ulsamer provides a clear and action-oriented answer to this question.
And he also addresses the topic of fear and finiteness. Whether we think about our death or fear that our loved ones might die, or whether finiteness refers to the fact that a lifestyle or a period of life is passing by: Fears in this regard are unavoidable. Instead of looking away now, there is the invitation to look with guidance and, interestingly, to create distance through this approach.
The exercises are clearly described, short enough, feasible for everyone and they help immediately :-) if you do them! However, this is then really to do - we need this doing and feeling and perceiving, yes, and also the time it takes. It will be a good investment. The book and the time for yourself.