Monday, July 28, 2008

Why Should I Bother: Why Can’t I Keep My View of an Idealized Family?

Christians weighing in on Botkin Syndrome:

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

From pages 294 -295:

We also learn that some of our long-protected illusions about ourselves and others must change. Childhood expectations and idealizations of the way people should behave may wind up influencing us long into adulthood with harmful results.

For example, it is a common childhood expectation that all families are happy: mom cheerfully takes care of the kids’ every need; dad goes off to work each morning with a smile on his face, and returns each night for dinner; the family schedules all kinds of outings for the weekends; everyone is happy and fulfilled all the time. That picture of “normal” family life is reinforced in dozens of ways in the storybooks we read in school, in the shows we watched on television, and so on.

As we grow older, we recognize that this rosy picture is an idealization, not the norm. We recognize that few – if any – families really look or act this way. We recognize that our own family does not look or act this way.

Or do we? In some cases, it is more accurate to say that part of us recognizes and accepts the unreality of this picture. But another part of us lings to it desperately, still believing it is to be true, and ever more conscious of the ways in which our own situation falls short.

Stoop quotes from Lewis Smedes’ “Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve":

“...we want our parents to be sheer light, with no darkness at all; and we feel a little foul if we allow shadows to darken our memory. We don’t want them to need forgiving; because if we forgive them, we must have found fault with them first, maybe even hated them.”

In working through the process of forgiveness, we need to figure out how our own expectations may have set the stage for our being hurt. Part of maturity is accepting responsibility for our own outlook on life and relationships. If others have hurt us by failing to live up to our expectations, then one of the things we need to do is examine whether those expectations may have been inappropriate and unrealistic.

If so, forgiveness for us will need to involve repentance (a fundamental change of our own minds and hearts about what we should rightly expect from others) as well as our working through our pain. The pain of unmet expectations is still very real, and still needs to be dealt with, even if those expectations were unrealistic.

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)