Therapy is not parent bashing

Therapy is NOT parent bashing

There is an idea out there, that all therapy does, is just blames your parents for all your problems. This post is to help you understand a bit more about this process, why it isn’t that, and what it really is instead!

Many psychotherapists (myself included) spend time rummaging around in your childhood. Many people think “it’s the past, just move forward.” But our brains don’t work like that. They are wired and re-wired as a result of our experiences! Healing from the wounds allows some re-wiring to happen, otherwise you find yourself making the same mistakes over and over again (isn’t that the definition of insanity?). If knowledge was the answer, the world would be a different place. Problem is, we have feelings, and knowledge itself doesn’t heal feelings. It’s a bit more complicated than that.

Playing the “blame game” isn’t helpful. Sure in therapy we understand what wasn’t taught, that which needed to be taught, what wasn’t given that needed to be given. What was done that was hurtful. What would have been more helpful and what was damaging, etc. ect. But we can’t stay there and the goal isn’t to just blame away. Because guess what. We can’t undo, or redo. But we can UNDERSTAND more. And blame can be lifted of yourself, and of the situation, but understanding can happen and compassion can be cultivated.

For people who describe their childhood as “mostly good,” there seems to be much resistant to go to these places. Almost like we are blaming parents or calling them bad or something. It is this dichotomous thought process that everything has to be black OR white. Just because you had an unmet need doesn’t mean your parents were bad, or that you’re weak, or overly sensitive. It is what it is. Understanding these needs are essential in undestanding these patterns that have been set in motion, these defensives that have been build. With knowledge and awareness comes space to create change!

Now, you might be saying, “Stacey, but I did have really shitty parents, and they are the cause of all of my problems.” No doubt, as a trauma specialist I work with a lot of people, who have had super shitty parents. In fact, knowing what some people have lived though makes me marvel at what we can withstand as a species. Some people test our strength through extreme sports. Some people had no choice but to withstand what was given and kept living.

No matter where you lie in the spectrum of childhood experiences, you can say whatever you want about your parents, but the goal of therapy isn’t to blame them for all your problems and to not just speak ill about them. In therapy we explore the depth of the childhood experiences, understand how the past is impacting current relationships and other problems, and move toward a place of understanding, healing, and wholeness rather than blame, hurt, and emptiness.

MOST people have a mix of wonderful and not so wonderful memories of childhood. Unfortunately, some have horrible memories and not many good memories. Working out the attachment confusion of an abuser also being your only source of love is difficult and fucked up really, but the points I’m trying to make are:
1. you didn’t need to have to have a horrible childhood to heal old wounds
2. despite how horrible it was, you are entitled to your story and it’s not the therapists job to bash – we support and validate you, but when we bring to the table some tough stuff, it’s not in the spirit of bashing, but should be in the spirit of understanding.

Hope this clears up any fears or confusion around this topic!

If you are wanting to read more about this check out my older blog post

A blog post about how parents can help kids working through feelings when finding out about Santa

The Day Santa Died

I don’t know about you, but there is talk around these parts that Santa isn’t real….

- Santa isn’t real
– What do you mean NOT REAL?! Who brings me presents every year?
– It’s your parents – they are Santa. There is no way Santa can bring everyone presents; it’s not possible.
– But he is magical and can go really fast
– Only babies believe in Santa….

WHAT? How can this BE? IS Santa real or NOT? —— MOM, DAD, “IS SANTA REAL?!”

If you are a parent of an elementary aged child, your child might be going though this current turmoil right now and coming to you for the answers.

Finding out about Santa is often a traumatic experience for many people. I know it was for me. It was full of grief, sadness, anxiety, fear, and anger.  I have also learned about how many other people found out about Santa via my therapy sessions and have learned quite a lot about people by hearing about this horrible day.

I figured I would offer some suggestions to parents who have this day looming in the future when your child asks you if Santa is real….. Because your child will likely remember this day for the rest of time, it is important to put some thought into how you want to handle it! So here are my thoughts from a therapist’s point of view!

  1. It’s OK that your kid is mad at you. “YOU LIED TO ME.” (Yes you did lie, don’t try to cover up the fact that you didn’t lie.) You brought your child to see Santa, you mailed letters to Santa.. (and I hear Santa has a phone number these days…) So apologize for lying. Your kid wants you to acknowledge this. Kids obviously know right from wrong and they know lying is wrong. Now is not a good time to explain why you did it.  Wait until he or she is calm and less emotional. Apologize.
  2. Allow your child to express his/her feelings. A lot of emotions are going on and they are STRONG emotions and your kid is basically facing a major existential crisis so allow him or her to cry and be angry and upset. Your child is sad, devastated, angry, and furious. Many children also realize if Santa isn’t real, neither is the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and so forth. So let them process this new information and the onslaught of related emotions that come with it.
  3. Validate your child’s feelings. Hear their sadness and their anger. DO NOT SHAME THEM FOR HAVING THESE EMOTIONS. Now is not the time to say, “well you’re old enough now” but rather “I understand this hurts…” The adult talk can come a little later.
  4. Allow space for grieving. As you notice in my title I write “the day Santa died.” That might sound extreme right? Well, because it is extreme.  That is likely how your kid feels. So treat it like grandma or grandpa just died, because this is a huge loss for your child and the magic of Christmas as been changed for the rest of their lives. Yes, new magic will come as they grow, but allow your kid to grieve the loss.
  5. Once your child is calm and has worked through the loss and moving beyond their existential crisis, now is a good time to bring them to the “Adult side.” That might be keeping Santa real for a younger sibling or cousin, or maybe starting a new tradition of sorts, doing something special for your little one the year that they found out the truth, or focusing more on the non-commercialism of Christmas – like giving back to the poor and helping others. Making a new positive focus can be helpful for your child – just allow the grieving to happen first :)

If you have any other suggestions feel free to add them to the comments below!

Good Luck Parents!