Guest Article by Elan Golomb, author of the book Unloved Again, which discusses how to handle raising a family after and abusive upbringing.
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About the book, Unloved Again
Unloved Again is about remembering how you were seriously punished by abusive parents and once more feeling your childhood pain. This awareness undoes the child’s act of denial of turning it into something you deserved or putting a “forget it” sticker on top of memory. Both are done to worship your internal parent who demands it. Seeing what happened includes hearing the pleas of your internal child, I call the “frozen child” placating or running from the internalized parent’s whip. The harsh and relentless copy, I call the “freezing parent.” The first step on emerging from their interaction is to know that the “freezing parent” and “frozen child” cannot change. You, the adult can never be ‘good enough.'” As it was in childhood, so they remain.
Handling memories of abusive parents
The adult who had harsh, rejecting or overly submissive parents thinks that he is the cause of his parent’s mistreatment. The first thing the adult has to recognize is that when he abuses his child in any way including submitting to the child’s demands, that this does not represent his adult self. The impulse to do such a thing comes from the past. The “freezing parent” always issues orders. The “frozen child” always complies. You the adult are to do neither. A person who stubbornly clings to an abusive or submissive stance is not expressing their adult self which lives in the now.
How to uncover the source of this problem? Return to early memories of mistreatment including via the imagery of dreams. You need to remember the pain you felt then which led your “frozen child” accepts a posture of submission. That child is still guiding you to give-in to your punishing “freezing parent” which demands punishment, worship and submission.
The adult self has to understand that childhood fear causes his continuous enactment of behaviors which harm the child. He ability to see that harm may be confused or conflicted because he is still attached to the denial of his own harm. He needs to return to his past in order to leave it. There is no turnpike, no other way around.
Love does no harm
Know that love does not harm. You may need to set limits to protect the child even if the child acts offended. Basically, he/she appreciates the “fence.” Parents who say OK to the child’s every whim are not experienced as loving. Throughout the animal kingdom, the mother, father or babysitter sometimes puts the paw down on top of the errant kid. Timed out, a reduction or loss of allowance for doing something known by the child to be bad, a harsh “stop that now” when the child wants to run in front of the bus, puts the child in an emotionally protected web.
In a loving family
In a loving family, the child above all wants to be included. You show the child the things they need to do to be at the table and they will follow through. Greeted with a welcome they feel loved. Setting limits need to be explained to the child in a language he/she can understand. This includes “don’t touch” when the object of investigation is hot.
If the child is before language, the parent should make the house safe so that no or few accidents will occur. (Learn from your mistakes.) For the child to feel loved, life cannot be only about having limits. There has to be lots of fun which both child and parent enjoy. I say this because children are like living litmus screens. They feel which means know if the parent’s laughter is genuine.
To raise a loved child does not mean that the parent needs to renounce their self. If they go that far, they are now treating the child as a “freezing parent” who requires dominance, regardless. Always fitting in this way creates a child who will be unloving like the parent’s parent and probably will be that way with their eventual child.
Love means sharing and being together
Love means sharing and being together. Love means knowing and accepting differences. Love means it isn’t always your turn but sometimes it is. The unreliability of life’s unfolding is prepared for by the parent who doesn’t practice “always” or “never.” It helps the child develop future orientation.
Then sometimes you get just what you want, the always sharing feelings is experienced as loved. I cry because I got a low grade. Parent gives a pat on the back and says I also sometimes did poorly. A child cries because his/her friend went with someone else. The parent says, “I know it is disappointing. You will have other friends who are loyal.” A child says I hit so and so for being taller than me in line. The parent says, your feelings are hurt because you tell yourself that you are worthless for being shorter. It is you who are making it so bad in your mind that you have to hit. Walk away when you think you need to hit and think of what I told you. Losing a friend or being shorter doesn’t mean you are unlovable. I love you at any height.
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Handling discipline with children
If still the child “acts out” with violence, the parents executes a penalty. As the joke goes about the man who strikes his mule, “It is only to get its attention.” You do not want the child to learn the violence of revenge. They need to feel loved despite some kind of failure. You, the parent have to be able to do for yourself in order to impart it. Whatever we teach our children, we need to be able to do it first.