Friday, July 4, 2008

Five Wrong Ways of Coping With Our Disappointments

Christians weighing in on Botkin Syndrome:

Excerpts from "Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves" by Drs. Stoop and Masteller.

From pages 292 - 293:

Wrong Ways to Forgive

1. We deny that any injury ever occurred.

We often talk to people who are unable to remember anything about their early years. In many cases, this is a strong indication of childhood trauma. Without consciously realizing it, we substitute an idealized picture for the unpleasant reality.

We have a strong instinct to protect our parents (and often, other authority figures as well). We believe it is wrong to be angry with them, or to have any feelings toward them other than total love and devotion.

Some people honestly believe that if they are angry with their parents, something bad will happen to them. A woman named Shirley said to me, “I don’t expect to live to old age.” When I asked her why, she pointed to the biblical commandment about honoring parents, “That it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on earth.”

“I gave my parents a lot of trouble,” she said, “so I guess I’ll have to pay the consequences.” I had to point out to her that this is an exhortation given to an entire people, and has to do with societal welfare – not with punishment visited upon individuals.

2. We make excuses for our parents.

We say things like, Well, yes, my dad beat me a lot. But my folks were having financial troubles at the time.” Or, “My parents never showed me affection – I don’t remember them ever even hugging me. But they were doing the best they could under the circumstances.”

3. We put the blame on ourselves.

“I had a lot of bad times growing up. But I deserved everything I got. If I had been more thoughtful (or more helpful, or more obedient, or whatever), my parents wouldn’t have had to treat me the way they did.”

4. We grant superficial forgiveness.

“Whatever they did to me, I forgive them.” Or, “Sure, they made mistakes, just like everybody else. I don’t hold anything against them.”

5. We attack those who suggest that we need to forgive.

“How could you even think such a thing.”

The traumatic memories of growing up in a dysfunctional family are not easy to live with. Before forgiveness can happen, however, we need to acknowledge and accept as much of the pain as we can. We need to feel the hurt, just as we felt it in childhood, in order to let it go. When we had progressed to the place where we can see our parents objectively, we can being the forgiving process. Along the way, we will also see more clearly the ways we have failed. Then we must also begin the process of forgiving ourselves.

Excerpt from
Dr. David Stoop & Dr. James Masteller's
"Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves:
Healing Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families"
Regal/Gospel Light, 1996 (Servant, 1991)