The trauma of disengagement: from denial to healing, part 4 of 6

Family 101

A couple weeks ago, Brandon and I were watching a program on PBS about the emotions of animals. A chimpanzee was being transported from her caretakers to the wild. Jane Goodall was riding beside the chimpanzee’s cage for that one-hour drive. They’d never met before. Jane held the chimpanzee’s hand at times and tried to comfort her. When the cage was opened, the chimpanzee embraced Jane Goodall and just held on. It was a very long, poignant embrace. It was tender and full of feeling and depth. I cried. I thought to myself, My mother has never embraced me tenderly like that. Never. And look at this beautiful, meaningful hug given by a chimpanzee to someone she just met an hour ago.

I just sat there and thought: There was something seriously wrong with my mother. Seriously, terribly wrong.

The family’s purpose
Let’s review some family basics from the last series.

Peaceful Readers, some of you grew up in a family with one or more people with personality disorders, maybe even a sociopath or two. Let’s look at the reason for family life and put our sociopaths (and similar, personality-disordered kin) to the test.

What is the family’s purpose?
The family was created as the essential, cohesive group
needed to enhance life by providing
(1) a safe, nurturing environment to sustain and grow that life,
and (2) the people and the place to experience, practice and learn
how to live the way our creator intended—
giving and receiving love and truth (simultaneously).

Love without truth fails. Truth without love fails. That’s a philosophical discussion for another time and place. Or, if you’re interested in diving into it, I highly recommend Tim and Kathy Keller’s masterpiece book, The Meaning of Marriage.

I wrote the section above about a year ago, with Brandon’s sociopathic parents in mind. Now I’m forced to apply what I wrote to my own childhood. That’s not so fun.

I guess it’s time to unpack that.

Did my parents provide a safe, nurturing environment?
No. If you missed part 3 of this post, check out the section in the middle—called The Silence—for a very interesting walk in The Danger Zone.

Did my parents give love and truth?
Uhhh, no. As a matter of fact, they created an environment pervasively filled with self-absorption (my dad), non-love (my mom) and lies (both of them)—by what was said and what wasn’t said.

Did they teach their children to give and receive love and truth?
Obviously not. I had to learn that on my own after I left home.

My parents both receive a big, fat, flying F in Family 101.

The parents’ job
Here’s some more on this subject, also from the last series.

As we move forward, Peaceful Readers, the answer to this next question is paramount. Whether or not our parents “got it” or “did right by us,” as the saying goes, those of us who are parents must do everything we can to get things right in parenting our children. Parenting well is an absolute must. So we have to think seriously about it.

What is the parents’ job assignment?
Your job as parents is to protect your children
from trauma (not from life itself),

and to make sure your children—all of them—
feel loved by you.

When parents fail
In my book, those are definitely the top two items in Parenting 101. (Yes, I know that some childhood traumas, like cancer, can’t be foreseen and are not the parents’ fault.) When parents fail by omission or commission in one or both of those areas—protecting their children from trauma and ensuring that their children feel loved by them—their children must take The Healing Journey successfully as adults in order to truly thrive.

Essential reading
If your parents failed in either or both of those areas, you know the fall-out in your own life from their failure. Read The Five Love Languages of Children or any of Gary Chapman’s books on Love Languages to learn the key to making your children and your spouse feel loved. Reading and applying the truths in a Love Languages book will be part of The Healing Journey in your life.

Now that you’ve read about my parents, you understand why I know about The Healing Journey. I’ve taken it. I had to take it. To live like my parents lived was not an option for me. All form, no substance wasn’t me. I didn’t want that—the façade, the lies, the pretense, the shallowness, the fear—the game. I didn’t want The Game of Life. I was seeking The Real Life. I wanted truth. I wanted God. I wanted love. I wanted it all. I wanted a family who loved me. I wanted all the things my parents didn’t give me.

And I found it all.

But I had to find God first.

Learned and unlearned
Since my mom took me to school and church, she presumed that someone else taught me what I needed to know.

Here’s the reality:

The vast majority of what we learn about life
comes from our parents and our experiences at home—
the purpose of relationships, how to live,
how to communicate and how to treat people.

For some of us, this creates massive problems in our lives until we successfully unlearn and replace the bad or non-existent teaching—and the lies—with truth and healthy living.

If you grew up with one or both parents who have a personality disorder, like Brandon and I did, you’ll spend a good part of your adult life unlearning the lies and unhealthy behaviors you learned growing up.

Can do
Here’s the good news. I can say with confidence: It can be done. Your life can be turned around. Mine sure has been. I found building my relationship with God to be the essential starting point.

Truth and love intertwine to fuel The Healing Journey and healthy living in general. You won’t learn truth from the world. You’ll learn it from God, revealed in his word—the Bible—and directly from him. You won’t learn the true nature of love from the world. You’ll learn it from God—our triune God: Father, Son (Jesus) and Holy Spirit.

Do you need emotional, relational or spiritual healing? Take a look at the five-part post called Thanksgiving from the last series. It’s a good place to start.

Bottom line
In part 3 of The Trauma of Perfection, I listed my dad’s spoken and unspoken lies. In part 2 of that post, I listed what he stole from me.

Everything about my mom can be boiled down to this lie.

The big lie
“My job is to provide food, clothing and a place for you to live.”

The big truth
Children need parents, not caretakers.

Caretakers don’t meet children’s emotional or spiritual needs. Good parents do.

Parents speak the truth in love. Parents say I love you. Parents give hugs—good ones. Parents spend time knowing what’s going on in their children’s hearts and minds. Parents spend time teaching their children about God, relationships, forgiveness, choosing friends wisely and much more. Parents seek to have a healthy, meaningful, lifelong connection with their children.

Good parents speak all five Love Languages to their husband or wife and to all of their children: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Acts of Service and Receiving Gifts.

What she stole
My mom stole some of the same things my dad stole—like my ability to develop wisdom and discernment, my ability to build positive relationships, my ability to trust God, and more….

What was the primary thing that my mom’s emotional neglect—The Trauma of Disengagement—stole from me?

My mom stole my belief in my inherent value.

God’s love has returned that to me.

Your turn
Peaceful Reader, how do these issues relate to your life? I look forward to hearing from you.

Coming next: In part 5 of this post, I’ll describe my mom’s impact on my life.

Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.

Truth from The Word: This scripture passage may seem a little strange for this post, but stay with me. Look at the chain of events—from desperate, life-threatening hardship, to rescue, to praise, to traveling forward, to serious need, to act of faith, to God providing—not minimally, but sweetly. Drink it all in.

Exodus, chapter 15

Song for Healing: Did you have caretakers, not parents? Have you ever needed someone to defend you? Have you ever felt imprisoned? Have you ever felt like you were in the wilderness? If you answered yes to any of those questions, I think this song will speak to you: “Strong God” by Virtual Worship (lead singer: Meredith Andrews). Enjoy.

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