023: How My Parents Let Me Down and Why It Was Never Their Fault


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A raw look at two of the biggest limiting beliefs my parents passed on to me and the tools I used to discover they weren’t to blame.

As kids we were around our parents almost everyday. We looked to our parents on how to relate to the world around us, and just like a thirsty sponge we soaked up everything they showed us – both the good and the bad.

We watched our parents go through their own struggles and took note (usually sub-consciously) of how they reacted to certain situations, certain people and certain  feelings they were experiencing.

But why would our parents show us things which would make our lives harder and healthy connections with others more difficult? Why would our parents treat themselves and others poorly in certain situations? These were the questions I had as I began to dig deeper and deeper into my negative reactions which were causing trouble in my own relationships with others.

Show Highlights and Takeaways

  • Our parents have given us a lot of helpful positive beliefs and also the negative.
  • We don’t usually acknowledge the positive gifts as they enhance the quality of our lives and don’t usually get in the way.
  • The negative beliefs, cause friction within ourselves and in our interactions with other people. So these are what we notice as they can make our lives unpleasant.
  • Ben: I was in a relationship and noticing I was having very strong negative reactions in certain situations. At the time I was already in the habit of writing down my feelings, so I explored these negative reactions in my writing.
  • I discovered that I held the beliefs:
    • That I was inherently unworthy of receiving love, and I needed to prove my worthiness in order to receive it.
    • And that my default state was inadequate, that I wasn’t good enough just as I was.
  • These beliefs caused me to search outside myself for a sense of love and acceptance, and undermined all of my creative pursuits, how I socialised, how I expressed myself…
  • I asked myself why do I feel this way? I found that this was how my mum and dad operated. I saw that I was copying what I’d seen my parents role model to me as a kid. This was how their own relationship was and I was just copying what I saw.
  • It made sense to me. The two people that were constantly in my life as a kid were my mum and dad – I was relying on them to give me love and acceptance, so whatever they said I accepted. I wasn’t going to question how they were showing me to live.
  • And all these years later these beliefs were causing me some problems.

The behaviours they’d shown me in their relationship had started to cause me problems in my own relationships.

  • When I saw I’d picked up these beliefs from them I became incredibly angry. I couldn’t belief they would act that way towards each other and other people.
  • I felt disappointed, I felt let down and that things should have gone differently. Because if things went differently I would not be having the problems I’m having right now.

Why Would My Parents Show My These Negative Beliefs and Behaviours?

  • I wanted to know why they why the would act that way? Why did they think that would be a good idea?
  • I continued exploring by asking myself questions. Writing down what I’d discovered and asking myself: why would that be the case?
    • Why would my mum only believe that love only comes to you from another person when you’ve proved your worth?
    • Why would I believe from my dad that things are inherently not good enough?
  • I discovered they were behaving in that way, not because they wanted to, not because they were even aware of their behaviour, but they were just copying how their parents had done things.

But Why Would Their Parents Act That Way?

  • Why did their parents believe love only came from outside you and that people are inadequate by default and be better than they are.
  • I saw that these behaviours had just been passed on.
  • I asked: why would someone consciously pass on these unhelpful beliefs, why would someone choose to live their life that way?
  • And when I asked my self that question I realised – they haven’t chosen this.
  • And I realised that my parents and their parents were just doing the best they could with the resources and awareness they had at the time. And that’s all anyone can ever do. When I saw that, I realised I can’t blame my parents for being that way. How can I be so angry and resentful at anyone for acting in a way they weren’t even aware of?

I Saw They Were Not Acting in This Way Intentionally

  • I saw that these were still live issues for my parents. These were things they were still working out for themselves and didn’t know how to handle when I was growing up as a kid. They were just doing the best they could.
  • As I mentioned at the start of the episode they gave me a whole bunch of beautiful gifts. Things (beliefs and values) that have enhanced and helped my life and continue to do so.
  • I saw they were not acting in this way intentionally. They hadn’t had a meeting with each other and said: “I think we should teach these really crappy things to Ben.” I truly know that they never had that discussion.

They Were Just Trying to Feel Loved

  • I saw my mum and dad were just trying to feel loved and accepted in their own ways, and that these negative behaviours were just their ways of trying to get that love.
  • When we’re afraid of being abandoned, when we’re afraid of losing love, when we’re afraid of losing someone’s acceptance, we’ll often do anything in an attempt to keep it there. e.g. Blaming others for what they are doing so we still feel worthy of love and they don’t. There are many ways we attempt to do this to try to maintain our sense of value and worthiness.

Taking a Step Back – an Overview of My Process

  • First: I noticed I was reacting negatively in certain situations and I didn’t know why. So I went exploring.
  • I found that I was reacting in the same ways that my parents had reacted to similar situations. Once I saw that I asked: why did my parents react in that way. Why did they show me how to deal with things in that way if it’s causing me so much trouble right now?
  • Then I discovered through my writing, that they were just copying their parents and that their parents had just copied their parents. I could see this chain happening, it was just being passed on down the line through the generations.

Once I’d seen where these things had come from and that everyone just wanted love at the end of the day, suddenly I relaxed. I realised this was never about me.

  • My parents hadn’t schemed to pass on these negative things to me and that they were going through hard-times themselves, and were just doing the best they could.
  • This was a really important step I needed to come to. Because if I kept blaming my parents for letting me down and giving me these crappy behaviours, then I’d still be in a position of feeling like a victim and feeling powerless to do anything about my life. I’m giving that power up when I continue to resent them and blame them for my behaviours.

I Made the Conscious Decision to Own All of My (Crappy) Behaviours

  • My behaviours are my behaviours.
  • If I punch someone in the face, I own that. I can’t say it was my dad’s fault for being aggressive when I was young and he taught me how to punch someone in the face as way to discharge anger. No, If I punched someone in the face, that’s my responsibility and I’ll be wearing the consequences for that.
  • So I owned all of my negative beliefs and behaviours. And when I did I felt an incredible sense of empowerment. Because suddenly I wasn’t depending on my parents to change or make things right in order for me to feel better.

I was taking my healing into my own hands by accepting my crappy behaviours as my crappy behaviours. They were mine now.

  • By owning all of this crap I was then in a position to start letting go of it. Choosing what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to get rid of. What was serving me in my life? And what was holding me back and causing a lot of trouble in life?

This Process Took Time

  • This wasn’t a process that happened in a matter of weeks. This took progressive awareness of how I was feeling and asking myself why I reacted to a certain situation in that way.
  • It took time to dig down into the layers of my reactions and why they were occurring.
  • It took time for me to even realise that I was copying how my parents had behaved in their own lives.

Two Invaluable Tools

  • There’s two invaluable tools to this process of self-discovery and going to deeper within to understand my reactions.
  1. Paying attention to any feelings of tension, dis-ease or any strong negative emotion, and asking myself why am I reacting to the situation in front of me in this way?
  2. Write it all down – I’d write down the event, what had happened, how I felt. And continued to ask myself questions about why I felt that way. Doing this, I travelled deeper and deeper into the source of my reaction and where it had actually started.

I’m still going through this. I’m still in the process of understanding my negative reactions and forgiving my parents, and owning my negative behaviours as mine.

Mentioned in this Episode

The Podcast

The B is for Being Podcast is a collection of conversations with friends, psychologists, and thought-leaders on the most effective tools for uncovering authentic expression and navigating the obstacles we may encounter on the way to discovering ourselves.

About Benjamin

Hi, I’m Benjamin. I podcast and blog about authentic expression and self-discovery. I also make slow-videos for rest and reflection. You can read more about me here.

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