Psychological insights on relationships: rejections, breakups, making relationships happy, unhealthy dynamics, and general psychology.

How to Talk to Ourselves About Our Parents

Talking about your parents with yourself is one of the most challenging conversations ever. And even when you think you’ve had it, you’ll probably only be halfway through.

Family

Why? Because accepting who our parents indeed are is challenging.

When I put it this way, it might sound like parents are bad, but the goal is to see the truth about them because the truth sets us free.

So, let’s consider a few facts:

  1. We tend to believe what our parents taught us, and we’ll need to change those beliefs if they’re not good for us.
  2. They teach us verbally and through their behavior, ideas, and character traits, giving us information about everything. We cannot think critically because it has not developed in us for a long time. We just accept the things we see, hear, and feel.
  3. Parents are ordinary people: Even if they convince us they are unique (more intelligent, exceptional, etc. than other people), they are just regular, ordinary people with all their flaws and shortcomings.
  4. We all want our parents to be great: We have only our parents to look up to from childhood, so we naturally idealize them. They are powerful (they really are when we are little), right (the way they do things is the way things are done), a model to follow, and wise (since they’re our primary source of information).
  5. Parents define us: They explain who we are and the world around us.
  6. Parents live their lives based on their beliefs. They teach us life based on what they think is right, not necessarily what is right.
  7. Unquestioning acceptance: For about the first ten years of our lives (for some, it’s seven, for others, it’s twelve), we accept our parents unconditionally and without question. Only after this do we start thinking more critically.
  8. Deep-rooted beliefs—what our parents taught us—become a core part of us.

Let’s revisit our discussion in light of these facts:

What and how our parents taught us

Imagine practicing something from the first day of your life.

Mother and child

There’s no accurate comparison, but let’s say you’ve been playing tennis from day one, learning from one or two key figures (we will stick with the dominant or same-gender parent). Since there’s no one else to compare with, whatever they say about tennis becomes the absolute truth. Over time, whether you’ve learned correctly or incorrectly, that way of playing tennis becomes part of you. Tennis is played this way; certain moves are made; you believe what you’ve been told; this is how tennis looks.

Now, imagine that the coach taught you to play tennis with a basketball and to curse after every shot.

As we said, that’s how it’s done. We don’t question it. Besides, we’ve practiced it enough to become skilled at it.

This is what happens with our parents. What they teach us becomes an integral part of us because it happens from day one. Our parents are the experts and the only relevant source of information about the world and ourselves.

Instead of tennis, parents teach us who we will be, what kind of people we are, and what the world is like.

  • This also applies when parents are absent or uninterested. This, too, teaches us something.
Father and son on a swing

So, if a parent says we’re amazing, we’ll believe it. If a parent says we’re bad, that’s how it is.

However, when you grow up and realize that your parents led you down many wrong paths, speaking only from their experiences and knowledge, it’s time to think critically about them.

But this brings us to an emotional blockade.

It prevents us from fully seeing our parents for who they are. Nothing else in our lives has been there from day one except them, making them our strongest emotional bond.

They are the most influential figures in our lives. They’ve been there since the beginning, and we had to rely on them. They were so powerful that we idealized them.

Through our experiences with them, a thick wall of emotions has formed around them, making it nearly impossible to see them clearly. These emotions can be varied (ugly, beautiful) but seem relevant and accurate.

Just like everything else, the strongest emotional bonds are formed in those early years.

Mother playing with son

Love for our parents develops affectively (it doesn’t have to be based on something real) and stems from biological, social, and psychological factors.

Biologically: survival instinct and hormones (oxytocin). Psychologically: we need a secure base, shared routines, and interactions. Socially: childcare and cultural guidelines.

This creates strong emotional bonds. This emotional bond is the most integrative, essential, oldest, and most powerful part of us. That’s why we can’t look at our parents objectively; that part of us prevents it.

And as we said, parents are also an integrated part of us. We do or accept everything as they do.

selvesThis is when most people give up analyzing their parents and never get the chance to question everything they were taught (and, by extension, their entire self, beliefs, and actions).

We have two contradictory things:

  • Parental authority = unquestioning
  • “Unmasking” our parents = change

Now we must decide: will we leave things as they are or will we learn something new (different, better)?

And we might have to do this if, for example, our parents taught us not to love ourselves.

So, if we decide to go the other way, to succeed, we must first:

Break down the emotional wall around them.

Family

How to do this?

By thinking about our parents repeatedly. About their general behavior.

For example, Mother doesn’t show much emotion. One could say she’s cold.

We can ask ourselves questions such as: Why is she like that? How did it affect me? What kind of person did I become because of it? What was my childhood like because of it?

We can do this on all possible scales, big and small. How did my father behave in relationships? How did my parents talk about neighbors? Why was my mother so fearful? Which character trait kept my father from being more successful?

Mother and son

Although it may seem trivial to analyze our parents, it serves to definitively establish that they are who they are and to leave no doubts or uncertainties about their nature. That’s why analysis is crucial.

So, everything you know about your parents, you can question and analyze.

After gathering information about your parents, the following analysis is (without emotional blockade, without restraints, just objectively, as if you are observing another person):

What kind of person have I become because my parents are the way they are?

Think of one of their traits and how it has affected you throughout your life.

Who am I because of it? How do I relate to others? What do I think about myself? What do I feel about life?

Do I mimic my parents? Or do I seek partners who remind me of my parents (like a cold mother)?

After this analysis, if we find that certain behaviors of our parents make us function poorly in life, we can ask ourselves the following question:

Maybe my parents taught me very wrong things, which have been ingrained in me, and now I think very wrongly.

Procedure:

  1. For example, my mother was cold.
  2. Why was she like that (analyze, so there are no doubts)? She was like that because Grandma was like that. She probably didn’t learn to be warmer.
  3. How did it affect me? I thought I didn’t deserve to be hugged. What have I become because of it? I think I am unlovable.
  4. This is a core part of me. Yes, my whole life, I’ve thought I was hard to love because my mother didn’t show love to me. But I am tired of thinking that I am hard to love. What should I do now?
  5. I should accept that my mother made a huge mistake and that everything she did to me, said, how she behaved, and how she treated me – it’s all a big untruth and lie.
  6. And if it’s a lie, then everything opposite must be true.

This needs to be changed. But to change it, we must remove the emotional resistance, which is difficult because we are built as a personality that believes we are hard to love.

Psychotherapy

Therefore, the next step is to:

Try to approach this without emotions, only rationally

You need to view the whole thing realistically and rationally. Am I lovable? (At this moment, the part of you that is ingrained will scream: No! We’ve always known we’re not!)

Ignore that voice and turn to reason: I am an average person. I am relatively successful in some areas. I am a good friend. This is all lovable. It’s lovable in others, so it’s lovable in me too.

If you can’t view yourself this way, imagine another person in the same situation and what you would think about their parents and their feelings about themselves.

For example, John is a normal person, successful in some areas, and a good friend—that’s lovable.

This will be your truth.

  • Note: If you are mentally and emotionally very unwell, you might think that this person (John or you) deserves not to be loved. That you will find fault in them and justify your parents. If you do this, it only means you cannot objectively analyze yourself. In that case, I recommend seeking help – psychotherapy.

When you reach your conclusion, change things

Family

When you see how your parents’ influence has shaped you, if you don’t like it – change it.

There are many psychological techniques to change things. CBT, REBT, etc.

However, actions are always stronger than words, motivation, and self-motivation.

What I would recommend in this case is to devise a procedure, something you will do every time your mechanism, say a lack of self-love, is triggered.

For example, whenever I think I’m worthless and not valuable, I will stop, and tell myself: You think that because your parents didn’t appreciate you enough, and then tell myself: You are actually completely okay. In some things, you are worse than others, in some equal, and in some better. This makes you lovable and valuable—at least as much as John.

Dad and son

And what can I say? We’ve just scratched the surface (though it would be more accurate to say we’ve just started digging deep since these are deep issues in reclaiming self-love).

Other aspects of the article How to Love Yourself: 19 Exact Steps are also important. For some, this will be the most important aspect; for others, it is something else, but I recommend this step as the first in reclaiming self-love.

Working on this is a long, complex, and comprehensive task, but it is crucial for living to your full potential and being happy. Love you. Dee.

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