“I don’t feel good enough as a person because I don’t HAVE what I need to feel good enough about myself. If only I HAD…”
“I feel lonely because I don’t HAVE someone who intimately knows me. If only I HAD…”
When we do not feel “good” emotionally, many of us, highly sensitive people or not, are quick to think in this manner. We think that our negative emotions have to do with something outside of ourselves that is not quite right. As we look outside, we identify possible external problems and work hard on trying to fix or control them. This is our natural human tendency, a built-in survival mechanism that arises no matter what negative emotions we get struck by. One of those negative emotions that all people experience in some point in their life is the feeling of abandonment from one’s own parents.
The feeling of abandonment from one’s own parents is an entire emotion of its own out of the many that make up the whole human inner experience.
Just as sadness is an unavoidable negative emotion that all humans are bound to experience in some point in life, no matter how “perfect” life is, the feeling of abandonment from one’s own parents is also an unavoidable negative emotion. This emotion says, “I am not equipped enough to be independent in this area of my life because you (parents) weren’t there for me,” “Where were you when I needed you?” “I have to be my own parent and look out for myself.”
Like the examples listed at the beginning of this blogpost, many people look outside of themselves as they experience this difficult emotion. So who ends up getting the blame? Most often the parents do. Parents make the easiest target for the root cause of this difficult emotion that is within every human being.
Upset children will do a variety of different things to cope with this difficult feeling. Many people use psychological strategies to make themselves feel better: “I guess I have it better than that other family does,” “At least I was not sexually abused by my parents,” “Considering the rough life my parents have had, I guess it’s only inevitable that they’d raise me the way that they did,” “Well, considering they didn’t have Google back then, I guess I can’t blame them for not knowing what to do.” Although these excuses that people make for their parents deliver momentary comfort, they cause other problems down the line. As you continue to invalidate your own real feelings, you will most likely feel that others, including your own children, are not allowed to struggle with these feelings either. In their times of darkness in this area, you will most likely lack empathy. It is exactly this lack of empathy which causes many parents to shut their children up and put them in their place when they express this “forbidden” emotion. If you respond to your children in this way, you may also be teaching them to carry guilt in possessing an emotion that simply is a part of every human being. Deep inside of you, you will also develop an expectation to be excused in the same manner once you become a parent. This expectation will most likely be passed down to your own children.
Some people try to fix their parents (I am guilty of this one). I criticized my parents’ parenting techniques. I tried to teach my stoic parents how to be there for my emotional needs. Hopeless, I tell you. In the end, I just got so frustrated with them. Frustration is the inevitable end result for all of those who try to fix their parents.
When this difficult emotion of feeling abandoned by one’s own parents is not dealt with in a healthy manner, resentment is very likely to develop. Highly sensitive people who feel their emotions very intensely are at a much higher risk of developing this kind resentment towards their parents.
So how do you handle this difficult emotion in a healthy manner?
Like I suggest in every one of my self-help blogposts about handling difficult emotions, go ahead and FEEL it. Do not run from it. Next, meditate on positive thoughts: “I will be ok,” “Though I may not be equipped enough to be independent in this area of my life right now, I will manage, I will learn.” Then, perhaps most importantly, forgive your parents in your heart. Do not keep track of how they have failed you but continue to wipe their slate clean again and again. If you have already built up a lot of resentment towards your parents, start forgiving them now. As much as you forgive your own parents, you will be able to forgive yourself for all your imperfections as a parent.
Lastly, for those who may be interested in a more spiritual explanation, I will also share my religious beliefs. I believe that, just like the emotions of joy and intimacy, our human heart was designed with the capacity to feel the wonderful sensation of having a perfect parent-figure. The Church happens to call this feeling “sonship” or “daughtership.” But when we attempt to find that joy, that intimacy, that wonderful sensation of having a perfect parent-figure in imperfect things, like our parents, we are likely to end up feeling disappointed and cheated. So I try to place my faith in something perfect (God) for those things and release my earthly parents from the burden of having to provide me with that emotion that I crave so much.
SO WHAT NOW?
So what will you do if your child expresses his or her emotional pain in this area? Will you let your ego shut your child up, put your child in his or her place, make your child feel guilty for possessing such emotions, and then leave your child alone to find rest in psychological strategies? What will you do?
It was only this morning that all of these things that I have written above were revealed to me. Before this morning, I was unable to fully grasp this difficult, confusing emotion. As soon as I figured that the root problem was not my parents, I immediately apologized to them for being so unforgiving and hard on them for so many years.