Thursday, March 12, 2009

The All-Good Father

A Christian perspective on forgiveness ~
From Dr. Stoop’s
“Making Peace with your Father”

Page 167 - 168:

Sherri’s father died when she was twelve. When I asked her what she remembered about him, she smiled and described a virtuous, heroic, utterly perfect human being. I pressed her for any less-than-perfect aspects he may have had, but the more I did, the more positive traits she recited. The tables were turned when we discussed her mother. Sherri had nothing good whatesoever to say about her.

What Sherri was doing is called “splitting.” It represents our tendency to make one person all-good and the other person all-bad. Little children do it all the time; it’s a natural part of the process of emotional development. When adults practice splitting, however, it can cause trouble.

In her strong attachment to the too-good father, Sherri was setting herself up for some serious problems. To preserve her image of her father, she had to explain away his shortcomings as inadequacies in someone else. First it was her mother: Dad was all-good; Mom was all-bad. Eventually Sherri attached this badness to herself as well. Her idealized view of her father was the driving force behind a perfectionism that enslaved her.

Sherri’s unrealistic view of her father also led her to adopt a good husband, but Sherri had come to see him as hopelessly inadequate. She resented his weakness and believed there was almost nothing that she could do better than he could. She laughed at the very thought of comparing Walt to her father.

Without realizing it, Sherri had cast her marriage in the same mold as she had her parents – seeing one person as the repository of all that is good, and the other as the embodiment of all that is bad. No matter what issues we discussed, her inevitable refrain was that Walt had to “fix himself” before they could hope to have a successful marriage. Until Sherri becomes comfortable with the untidiness of human reality – that all fo us have both good and bad qualities, bot that all fo us are unique and valuable just the same – she will be imprisoned by her distorted view of life.