When is it Time to Stop Blaming our Parents for why We’re so Fucked Up?

This is one of the better questions I’ve received over the past couple of years:

Do you think that people spend too much time blaming their childhood for things outlook webmail? It’s all well and good to talk about the different ways our parents raised us, the good and the bad.  I also know how important it is to understand the huge impact events of our childhoods can be, but when is it taken too far herunterladen? At what point should we step back and take more responsibility for ourselves?

After reading this, I immediately went to Dr herunterladen. Allison, a big fan of Freud and a researcher of childhood experiences as they relate to adult life.  Despite the fact that she hates me and wanted to have me committed as a danger to others after reading my Twitter posts, she readily gave me some interesting thoughts on the subject:

“We live in a society that values self-sufficiency and independence, so the prevailing attitude is that we should just get over the things that happened to us as children and accept responsibility for our actions.  I agree with personal responsibility, but at the same time a lot of the self-defeating stuff we do and/or maladaptive patterns we repeat are unconsciously driven and rooted in early experiences.  Instead of thinking of it in terms of ‘blaming the parents’ and taking it ‘too far,’ we should redirect our attention to understanding what it must have felt like for us, as children, to experience the things we did.  There’s no reason to take our residual anger and resentment out on our parents – there’s nothing they can do to correct the mistakes they made in the past – but there’s very good reason to talk it through with a therapist so that we can develop some compassion for ourselves when we make the inevitable mistakes that are part of our developmental pattern.”

Her take highlights one of the most important concepts in all of therapy: blaming versus understanding.  We do way too much of the former and not enough of the latter, and this is what keeps us from taking responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and actions. 

Our lives are, in many ways, simply a confluence of our biology and experiences.  So how do you ask a woman who was beaten daily by her father and brothers to trust men as an adult?  Can you ask a young man to simply say “so what if my mom told me every day that I’m stupid, that doesn’t make it so”?  We are highly influenced by others, especially as children, and both the implicit (“you are worthless and therefore should be beaten”) and explicit (“you are stupid”) messages we receive can become entrenched in our psyches, even if logic suggests otherwise.  This is especially true if the words have been repeated over many years.  You can read more about this as it relates to yours truly here wo kann ich stronghold kostenlosen.

That said, you can ask people to not indoctrinate their pasts into the present.  Sometimes this will be successful because we all have at least the capacity to reject what we’ve been told.  But how many times have people said, “there’s no way I’m going to be like my mom/dad,” only to turn around ten years later to see themselves doing exactly what they swore against?  Our past experiences often become part of our current repertoire, even when we wish against it.  That’s why therapy can often take months or years to bring about change.  You have to undo lifelong patterns of thinking and behaving solitaire download for free.

When I work with clients who have had tumultuous childhoods, there is a specific directive I give them:

“You aren’t responsible for what has happened to you.  However, from this moment forward, you are in charge of what goes on.  It’s not usually a person’s fault that he caught the flu or a cold, but if he wants to get better he needs to take the medicine.  Now is the time for you to take your ‘medicine’ and be responsible for your own thoughts and actions.”

In the young woman’s case, that means working toward a visceral understanding that not all men will treat her poorly, even if physical abuse is all she has known to this point.  The man is required to not treat every mistake he makes in life as ‘proof’ that he’s a stupid person, even though that’s what he was trained to believe. 

At any moment, if a person is trying to shake what he’s been told, what he’s seen and/or what he believed, then he is already on the path toward where he needs to be.  There’s a flick of a switch that needs to occur over time, one that says, “okay, this is maybe why I’m like this.  How do I use this knowledge to be something different?”  It’s at that moment people move past blaming to a point of understanding, and this is where all of us need to be to have a better life. 

Challenge yourself now to view your past as something to be analyzed and dissected, as opposed to simply a crutch or tool of blame to allow the status quo to continue.  Push yourself to not indoctrinate your parents’ screw-ups into your life and demand more of yourself based on what you’ve learned from your past.  I think you will like the results film selber machen programm kostenlos downloaden.

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29 Responses to “When is it Time to Stop Blaming our Parents for why We’re so Fucked Up?”

  1. kk says:

    wow – excellent post. thanks!

  2. Shay says:

    Bravo, Dr. Rob.

    Once again, thank you for your insight.

  3. Tracie says:

    I’m fond of the saying “It’s a reason, not an excuse.” Bad things have happened to me, and I’ve been hurt; those things are a reason that I behave in certain ways, but they’re not an excuse for me to treat myself or other poorly. It’s pretty illuminating to identify a harmful behavior pattern and being able to identify a situation that likely triggered it. Therapy is great for kicking off this process of discovery, and it gets easier to do so on your own for most people.

  4. Joe says:

    I’m totally on board with the idea that people have to step up and act like adults at some point, and the earlier the better. I also believe that an important part of this is identifying the causes of one’s dysfunction. But in the instance where someone really has been treated badly by their parents or many members of their family, shouldn’t they hold those family members accountable? Isn’t not blaming your family members akin to a recovering alcoholic hanging out in bars? If you don’t identify the cause of serious problems AND remove that cause from your life, are you really going to recover, or are you just going to rationalize the way you were treated?

    On a related note, everyone’s parents make mistakes and that’s something we all have to accept, but from my experience working with kids and watching people around me growing up, most people who are really screwed up and don’t have a mental illness have some really screwed up parents. What’s wrong with blaming those people who went far beyond normal mistakes? While we’re responsible for our own actions, regardless of what happened to us in childhood, what’s wrong with blaming people who acted badly, even criminally, and left a lasting impression? In my view, society is too soft on violent criminals and the people who produce them. There’s enough blame to go around.

    I say this with the caveat that I am talking about really serious cases of abuse or dysfunction that are necessarily outliers and I’m not suggesting that the average person blacklist their parents from Thanksgiving. But in the example where the girl was beaten by her dad and brothers, why should she forgive them or have anything to do with them?

  5. Dr. Rob says:

    At Joe: I completely understand your point, but there’s a subtle difference between holding someone accountable and blaming to the point that it begins to work against you. The first states “this is unacceptable and is a contributor if not a direct cause of my current state, but I will use your mistakes to understand myself and work with it” the 2nd is “this is your fault and I’m incapable of improving myself because of it.”

  6. Nikolina says:

    Ironically enough, considering the metaphor used in this post, my father would always tell me explicitly that it was my fault that I was ill, and would give me a lot of chores and sometimes quite physically straining tasks to do if I stayed home ill. Often he would stay home saying he was “taking care” of me, and spend the day making sure I was busy and always on my feet.
    He did this kind of thing with any problem I ever had. Emotional? Let’s argue. Struggling with math? Repetition until at least 12pm (too late for a 9 year-old). It took me a long time to learn how to let myself express vulnerabilities and try to fix them.
    I do agree that people can’t spend their whole lives looking back, but to say that a person’s past doesn’t have an affect on their ability to take responsibility or heal can’t really be right in my opinion. Don’t people with these issues have very strong urges to deflect and deny responsibility?

  7. Nicole says:

    I was physically, emotionally and exually abused by my father. I kept it secret for many years and gave him a free pass until about a year ago. Up until then, I had a “normal relationship with him”. Nobody could tell what had transpired between us. I spent holiays with my parents and we all vacationed together once a year. When I started therapy and began talking about my childhood, I discovered how screwed up I am and why I don’t have feelings or can’t sustain any relationships. I’ve never blamed my childhood until my therapist started opening my eyes abou what is really going on. I’m 36, I’m not married, don’t have kids. There is so much I’ve missed because I haven’t been able to be less afraid of so many things. I’m just learning that. So now what? Do I blame myself, my childhood? My parents?

  8. Lindsey says:

    Wow, great post Dr. Rob… Reading this and the previous comments by my fellow readers, a few things came to mind.

    Nicole, I was also abused by my father (and uncle, UGH men) and I can totally related to it affecting your life years and years down the road (I’m 25, I can barely date much less have a relationship). You answering some interesting and really important questions. I don’t think that there is ever going to be an answer to where the blame should lie. However, it was NEVER your fault. That being said, I can only look out from my own eyeballs, and I think after years of therapy, I have really come to peace with the fact that there isn’t any sort of release by going through the psychological agony of trying to figure out where things went wrong… In my case, I think my father was a really messed up guy, who for some deranged reason that it was okay to take his mental psychosis out on a preteen girl.

    Which leads me to my second random thought about this post. Utilizing my ever-so-wonderful health insurance mental health benefits (that is sarcasm by the way), I’ve been in therapy for a long time for depression, anxiety etc. It’s really interesting to be in this position but also in academic psychology, because sometimes I think I have this whole new level of understanding of my own unconscious. I’m not a huge Freud fan, but there is something to be said about bringing the unconscious into the conscious. In terms of parents, I think the take away message here is that it’s a wonderful thing to gain awareness of something that may be affecting you from your childhood. By realizing that it’s there, and by acceptance and understanding, you can oftentimes change the negative behavior/thoughts that come along with it.

    Anyways, I could ramble on and on about this stuff, but I’ll leave it at that 🙂

  9. […] slippery unconscious… I was thinking about this picture earlier while reading Dr. Rob’s latest post over on […]

  10. Shay says:

    Congrats on making #41, Dr. Rob.

    I pimped the link out on facebook with a special shout out to your blog.

  11. sandy says:

    I frequently find myself saying, “This isn’t about beating up on your parents. It’s about helping you not beat up on yourself.”

  12. Bell says:

    I learned this lesson a few years ago when I found myself starting to exhibit behaviors that I had witnessed in my mom, behaviors that I never would have believed I could repeat. I think the only thing that made me really face why I was doing these things was the fact that my daughter would soon be old enough to become an unwilling participant – just like I had been. I had to go through a lot of pain and change my life in significant ways, but I am in a much better place now. I’m still afraid of passing some of my neuroses to her. But if I do, I hope that she understands I tried my best and learns from it.

  13. Rineva says:

    Great post. I only recently affirmed that my mother is psychologically abusive and has been all my life. As a result, I have begun to pick up more on how my anxiety problems and certain behavioral approaches are rooted in the way she would handle things. I am dedicated to learning to recognize these behaviors, along with my anxiety triggers, so that I will no longer feel any of this.

    It is so crucial to not let yourself be haunted by the past. It is crucial to not waste energy trying to rationalize or point fingers at expectations or circumstances that are now beyond control. Instead, one must learn to understand your weaknesses, and to work with them to develop new strengths. I hardly doubt there is anyone who wants to feel the way that a fractured past makes them forever.

    Survive the past. Do not be a victim of it.

  14. […] Dr. Allison after Thanksgiving.  She’s softened a bit on her Anti-Rob stance since I recently posted her quote (I guess she’s more vain than I had originally thought).  She had an intriguing holiday, […]

  15. niekekleins says:

    Many Thanks,

    This is really good stuff.

  16. […] week we discuss why Hulu Plus should give me an invite (hint, hint), when we should stop blaming out parents, live entertainment and how the PA liquor control board is screwing us […]

  17. Anonymous says:

    I think parents DO have an effect on us, but what a/b the positive effect (you just talk a/b the negative parents). I like to think that (except when it comes to guys, duh) I am fairly normal and well-adjusted… where did I learn that? As an adult? No… from my parents. My problem w/ anxiety goes back to the tornado, I’m sure of it… loss of control, etc etc. Prior to that I was a shy, reserved kid but I wasn’t anxious. Fortunately when that happened I had supportive and caring parents… God only knows how I would have turned out if they were not like that when I was traumatized… know what I mean? Anyway, I’m rambling… but I definitely think – Freudian or not – there is something to be said for parents’ influence, good or bad… but there also does become a point where, if they were bad influences, you can choose whether or not to go down the same path or try and make changes (I realize this pretty much says what you said anyway, ha).

  18. This post says:

    “Challenge yourself now to view your past as something to be analyzed and dissected, as opposed to simply a crutch or tool of blame to allow the status quo to continue.”
    R E A L L Y???
    You have a PHD and that’s your advice?
    Yeah, because people who were abused love to use their past as a crutch. I bet you that if you asked anyone who went through abuse, they would rather be mentally healthy and not use crutches to rely on.
    This article is insulting. You are supposed to have empathy. Shut up if you don’t have any.

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  20. Catherine says:

    “Challenge yourself now to view your past as something to be analyzed and dissected, as opposed to simply a crutch or tool of blame to allow the status quo to continue.”

    I spent a good part of my life blaming my mother for all of the abuse that occurred. For allowing a couple that babysit me sexually abuse me.
    For all of the broken bones that she gave me, for all the times she called me stupid, fat, ugly and worthless. That i had to take care of her whenever she went on and off her meds again. That the only time she got out of bed was to beat me.

    I started drinking, self-harm and purging, largely because i believed that life dealt me a shitty hand and i didn’t deserve better.

    I am proud to say that after two years of counseling; I stopped blaming her and her illness and have been able to move on with my life. Not blaming doesn’t mean excusing the behavior that was done but being able to process the anger among many other feelings and leaving that life behind.

    I am now studying to be a social worker.

    Dr. Rob, I have just finished reading Crazy. Thank you for showing me that even though i maybe a little fucked up that i can still help people and maybe even become good at it!

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  23. bubbagump says:

    Having blamed my parents (father) well into my 30’s, then finally – after much therapy, embracing what you mentioned in this blog… “blaming vs. understanding”. Once I understood why my father was the way he was and that deep down he did the best he could with what he had, I was awakened to the idea that I did not have to stay stuck in the “blame game”. Sadly, he died almost ten years before I awakened.
    I realized I could enrich my life by improving myself to go beyond my parents capabilities (without belittling them in the process and doing the “superior attitude”) – “braking the cycle”. Let the journey begin with me.
    I now have a daughter in her late 30’s that is blaming me for most of her misery and short comings in her character. When I had her I was 25 years old, my first child – my first hands on – major learning curve – experience with parenting.
    Her understanding of me is lacking big chunks of my reality as a parent, which she fills in with her own childhood understanding of the world. This is exactly what kept me blaming my father. The cycle continues!!
    Now it is clear to me that I have no control over the way my daughter chooses to look and accept me. My sincere apologies make no difference. She believes I “could have” (the past) done way better.
    Like me – I had to come to the awakening on my own – and she too, on her own, will have to want a different perspective of life where she begins to dislike old emotional forces dictating the course of her precious life.
    I wish each and every one of you the strength and courage to let yourself be free of what others have done to you and know that, whoever they where, they probably had issues happen to them as well, be they -parents, teachers, death, abuse, neglect, medical, mental.
    We all have the power – compassion and understanding is the beginning.

    Peace for a better world starts with each and every one of us. Let’s stop the anger and blame cycle.

  24. Red says:

    Bubbagump, your advice flies in the face of our present understanding of narcissism, sociopathy, and psychopathy. Many people do not care about doing the best they can and did not have bad things happen to them along the way. Mussolini, for example, was a spoiled brat who went on to guide a whole county in true spoiled-brat fashion. (I read his biography.) There are plenty of little Mussolinis in this world who do a kind of cost-benefit analysis and decide that they are entitled to beat, rape, loot, pillage, plunder, whatever, as long as they don’t get caught. These people just have no empathy and see other people as things put here for their use. They are not acting out of hurt, they are acting out of self-interest and egotism. It doesn’t feel all warm and touchy-feely to admit this, but it is frequently true.

    If I were your daughter, I would never speak to an abuse apologist again either.

    There is nothing wrong with blaming people who genuinely deserve it. Grow up and deal with that fact. If you can’t, go run to Oprah or Dr. Phil for comfort.

  25. Red says:

    Also…what does the original author mean by (ahem) “f***ed up”? Because there is a difference between making bad decisions and just plain having intense PTSD that does not cause you to make bad decisions, but causes you to dissociate, have extreme flashbacks, become phobic, and enter a state of deep depression. Shallow treatments such as journaling, EMDR, and meditation (and meditation is pretty shallow–I’ve done it and am never going back) do not work for everyone.

  26. northface says:

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  27. Wil says:

    Wow…..finally someone addressed woman as a victim. I was waiting for the day when someone would mention it. I mean, if it wasn’t for all the massive funding that goes to helping men, sheltering them, providing ease with which they can father their children, favoring them in any confrontation from disagreement to divorce and giving them the legal edge in these cases, not forcing them to die in wars and accepting at least a 10 fold rate of violent crimes against, you would think far too much focus was on the few little problems men now face.

    Thank god this therapist choose to right the score and not talk about the overwhelming rate of abuse men face, because that would be just silly.

  28. Seviah says:

    I’ve stopped you blaming my parents over thirty years ago, but that doesn’t negate the vestiges of their behavior’s lingering impact on my psyche.

  29. Jess says:

    LOL. I’m sure there are people out there that are blaming their parents for things that they should already be over but there are people like me that will simply never be able to because the amount of destruction is almost beyond what is explainable. Here is a taste of how horrible my life has been and still is… my parents prostituted me out since age 3 and told everyone I tried to get help from that is was a liar and just saying I was raped because I wanted attention. I was married to a man a few years ago after he asked my parents. The wedding was completely setup and I was never asked just told that I would be sued for the entire cost of the wedding of I did not say yes. I have been forced to have children with him. When I was in school, speaking to anyone was completely against the rules as well as having friends, which I still don’t have. I’m almost 40.. so tell me. The only option I see is to disappear and never have contact with any one I’ve ever met.. Move far away and live as a homeless person since my father was a cop and I’ve been branded a felon for assault on an officer wanna can’t rent anywhere to live or find a legitimate job. The man I’m married to is abusive and reminds me of the movie, “Sleeping Worth the Enemy”. I disappeared once for a few years and I felt free… It was right after I made contact again that I was thrown in jail and labeled. I’m still planning an escape but have no resources. Every dollar I come across is accounted for and every where I go is checked and every minute. I have multiple tasks that I’m required to complete daily. I literally feel as if I’m in prison in a third world country, prison here would be way nicer, like a vacation. (I didn’t want to leave.)