You’ve read my book and others and discover that you treat people badly and rationalize that it’s not really your fault — your genes and your parents sabotaged you. Certainly it’s true most abusers are acting out defense mechanisms they developed as children to protect themselves from abuse; one example is a young man who was undermined by his mother and attacked by a knife-wielding stepfather. In his family, violent outrage at the first sign of trouble was the only defense, and for the rest of his life, any imagined slight turned on his attack mechanism. Foul-mouthed tantrums and violence undermined any relationship he was able to start.
And the dismissive or abusive parent got that way most likely because they were mistreated or badly cared for by their parents. And so forth — sometimes leading back to a source like an ancestor orphaned by war or a parent with organic mental illness. As all of your ancestors had to act to succeed in protecting their children so that you could be alive, they were in the most important sense successful — and we have to forgive them for not getting everything right, for not overcoming their flawed legacy to give you the best possible emotional upbringing. And so the responsibility now rests with you to fix what they didn’t understand or couldn’t fix.
Your parents may have left you in sad shape by leaving you afraid of relying on anyone; or too afraid they wouldn’t love you to give anyone near you any freedom, or prone to violence or manipulative behavior. But you are the one who’s here now and can do something about it, because you know what the problem is. Your parents didn’t understand it and didn’t break the chain of dysfunction, but you can. You can stop the craziness — treat yourself and your loved ones better; bring up your children so that they know you’re always there to help, but also letting them go to achieve on their own. It’s hard but you have the power and the knowledge. Use it.
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