NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Trying to Decide Whether to Reconcile with Your Parents

There is a common misconception about psychotherapy that it's all about coming to complain about your problems, blaming everything on your parents, and that's where it ends. However, in reality, when you begin psychotherapy, looking at your relationship with your parents, if it's relevant to your problems, is only the beginning of trying to understand the origin of the problems. It's not the end by any means.

Trying to Decide Whether to Reconcile with Your Parents

Emotional Reconciliation with Your Parents
At some point, as an adult, especially if you're in your 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond, you might face the possibility of reconciling certain aspects of your relationship with your parents. 

Depending upon your particular circumstances, this might be a question of direct reconciliation with one or both of your parents. Under certain circumstances, if they're too impaired physically or emotionally or if they're no longer alive, or if it would be emotionally detrimental to you or to them, it might be a matter of your own internal emotional reconciliation. By this, I mean you own emotional coming to terms with these issues so that you can heal and be at peace with yourself.

Only You Can Decide if Reconciliation is Right For You
I realize that this is not an easy topic for some people, and it often elicits uncomfortable responses, especially for people who are in the throes of a difficult time with their parents. So, it's important to understand that only you can decide what works best for you given your particular history and under your particular circumstances.

As a psychotherapist, I've seen many middle-aged clients who are struggling to come to terms with their relationships with their parents. 

For clients who are in their 40s and older, this might mean that they had difficult relationships with one or both parents when they were younger and now their parents are old and frail and need their help. 

When their parents were younger and independent, there might have been an emotional estrangement between them and their parents. And there can be so many reasons for this estrangement. Maybe their parents were emotionally or physically abusive when they were growing up. Maybe their parents were emotionally neglectful. Maybe there was some other form of betrayal or trauma.

Whatever the reason for the ongoing resentment or estrangement, after many years, you might find yourself facing an emotional dilemma. If your parents are still alive and elderly, one or both of them might need help. 

Maybe you've received a call from your siblings that your parents are not well or that your siblings can no longer take care of your parents on their own and need your help. Or, maybe you're the one who has assumed the brunt of the responsibility for your parents and feel overwhelmed physically and emotionally, especially if you're still harboring resentments towards them and you need help. Or, maybe your parents are dead and you were unable to have any type of reconciliation with them before they died. You might feel that, since they're gone, it's no longer possible to reconcile your feelings. But, when you're ready, there are ways in psychotherapy to work through, reconcile your feelings and let go of longstanding anger, hurt and resentment.

Reconciliation Can Be Healing For You
The important thing to understand is that, in many cases, you're doing this mostly for yourself. If your parents are still alive and healthy enough, and it's possible to have a mutual reconciliation that brings peace to you as well as to them and you can do this without compromising your own or their well-being, so much the better. 

I've heard from so many clients that when they see their parents now as elderly and frail people, it's hard to believe that these were the same parents who were abusive or neglectful. In reality, they might have changed and you might have changed a lot over the years, and maybe you and they are no longer the same people that you once were.

I realize that the emphasis of this post has been focused on dealing with parents who might have been abusive or neglectful. But I also realize that it's not always one way--it's possible that you might feel the need to make amends with your parents for things you might have said or done. This can also be challenging but, if it's possible to do without emotional harm to yourself or to them, can be so freeing.

Reconciliation Might Be Your Own Internal Work
Like any type of working through, forgiving, and letting go, whether you come to terms directly with your parents or you do your own internal emotional work about it without involving your parents, you'd be doing this mostly for your own peace of mind and well being.  For some people, it might do more harm than good to reconnect with one or both parents.  Then, the reconciliation is within yourself.

It might be difficult to imagine, but when you're ready, letting go of the burden of hurt, anger, and toxic resentment can be so freeing.

Getting Help in Therapy
EMDR and clinical hypnosis can be effective tools in dealing with these emotions and, when used by an experienced practitioner, they often work faster and more effectively than regular talk therapy.

About Me
I'm a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and EMDR. I've helped many clients find healing and peace with their parental relationships.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up an appointment, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Also, see my article:  Does Forgiving Mean Forgetting?