Parents Love Themselves So They Can Love Their Children Freely.
One moment I was listening to Bob Dylan, smoking roll-ups and strumming my guitar. The next I was a Dad. Our daughter arrived suddenly and unexpectedly when I was 22. But I wonder- who isn't surprised by the sudden shock of parenthood? The impact of the first few weeks is dramatic- sleeplessness, crying babies, baby vomit, nappies, cooking and shopping with no free arms. Enough to make a person dizzy.
When the spinning stops- it's as if the world has reset- reconfigured. It's hard to remember what life was like before children- it seems like a dream. But it's here the journey begins, the journey into parenthood. Buckle down, take a deep breathe- you will learn more than you ever imagined.
As parents we are forced to learn- new challenges arise everyday. We are stretched- we become master jugglers- balancing the balls of our many roles: father, mother, daughter, son, worker, lover, nurse, policeman, politician. At times we are everything to everyone.
I was swept so suddenly into parenthood, that I barely had time to dust away my own childhood. I still had spiderman pajamas. I tried really hard to keep everything together- home, work, marriage. My Mum left when I was 4, so I was determined that at all costs- I would stay. My tremendous effort worked- my family stayed together- but at what cost? For years I inflicted my frustrations on those I loved- I was wound up so tightly that I was a nightmare to be around- I might explode at any moment.
Four years ago, my wife and I separated- my eldest daughter went off to university, and my youngest daughter lived with her mum in a new house. For the first time I was on my own- living in a small flat in Boscombe. It was only then, after my world fell apart, that I was able to begin my own healing journey,
I came across a book called 'Healing the Shame that Binds', by Dr.John Bradshaw. It was recommended by a friend. I resisted reading it because I didn't believe in 'healing my inner child.' I thought it was a silly idea. Especially as I'd been a teacher for years, raised a family- and tried every possible New Age healing method. Reiki, Yoga, Transcendental meditation, Vipassana, Tai Chi, Tarot, Crystal Healing, Aromatherapy, Homeopathy and Bach Flower remedies. They say you shouldn't mix your medicines. It's likely this lot made me sick rather well.
Reading his book was like turning a light on in a dark room. I began to understand how my childhood abandonment by my mother created a deep sense of shame. Deep shame makes us believe that we are worthless and broken. But the feeling is so unpleasant we block it out- at all costs. Shame driven people go down two routes (1) Severe underachieving and addiction (2) Overachieving and addiction. The underachiever makes a mess of everything- they go from bad relationship to bad relationship. Poor choices and addictions wreck everything they touch. The overachiever must be the best at all costs- he cannot rest unless he has excelled. He must do better- he is never satisfied- he is also addicted to substances and or sex/gambling.
My healing journey has brought me to a place where I can finally comfort, love and support my abandoned child. Every morning I sit with a photo of my child self- I connect with his feeling of terror, and doom- I make space for the anxiety- "I've done something REALLY bad and I'm in BIG trouble." I allow him to feel dizzy, lost, and overwhelmed. As a loving adult I assure him that I'll never leave him, that I'll love him no matter what. I tell him he doesn't have to do anything- I love him just as he is.
I wish I had done this earlier in my life- it would have made me a better Dad. But I had to put my feelings in a box in order to survive. The sudden shock of parenthood sent me spinning. It took 18 years for the spinning to stop. Now I've opened the box. I've let the shame out, and loved the little lost boy.