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I have suffered abuse from my parents and now feel a lot of guilt and fear - I am learning to stand up to them. Any tips?

heart to heart
I have been in and out of therapy throughout my life. I grew up isolated with only an abusive father and mother, who still abuse me. I have tried many times to get away, only to fail at staying away by buckling under the guilt and terror I carry around. After a decade of such attempts, I realized running away was not likely to work and the only hope was in learning to be able to stand up to them. Well, that experiment has lasted another ten years, and I'm still not there yet. Any tips?
Wallace's reply
Wallace The relationship with your parents that will serve you best is one of love, acceptance and open communication. This is possible but I feel you are finding this difficult because you see your parents as bigger and more powerful than you. Your use of the phrase "learning to be able to stand up to them" suggests this, as are your feelings of guilt and terror. I strongly sense that that you are relating to you parents as if you are still a small girl, who is frightened that she will be punished and who feels she is to blame for the poor relationship she has with her parents.

I want you to work at relating to your parents as an equal, so that you can have a mature adult to adult relationship. Instead of standing up to them I want you to share with them. Replace confronting with sharing. When you share, feel yourself their equal.

What do you share? Anything you wish. Share how your day went, where you went on holiday, the fun day out you had with a friend. When you get used to sharing in this way, you can move on to sharing more personal thoughts and feelings. If you wish at this point you can share some of the experiences and feelings from your childhood. But share without blaming - remember to share as an equal. When you share take time to listen carefully to what they may wish to share in return. Listen without judging. Listen without blaming. Simply listen - so that you can understand.

Where there is understanding there is love. Where there is love there is healing.

Through your sharing come to see your parents as they really are. See them as they are today, as a fellow adult, not as how you saw them when you were a child. Take an abiding interest in getting to know your parents as they are today.

You are not responsible for fixing your parents and need not feel guilty for their situation in life. Your responsibility is to share with your parents - as an equal, as an adult. Through that sharing you will be healed of your fear and guilt and your relationship with your parents will develop into one of love, acceptance and open communication.

Further Help and Resources
Charlie Badenhop points out, in his article Learning From Life that the quality of our life is not dependent on the circumstances we encounter. The quality of our life is dependent on what we learn from the circumstances we encounter. Perhaps the greatest example of this wisdom is present in the life of Nelson Mandela. He is a man that suffered great pain and hardship, and somehow his suffering seasoned his soul in a way that has led him to be compassionate and caring.

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