Original Articles and Resources
The shame from trauma hides itself in many sophisticated ways. The shame hides itself because it flourishes in secret. We all develop defensive strategies to cope with this unresolved shame. The one I will talk about today is: protecting our parents.
First I will say this isn’t really about our parents. This is just one of the many strategies we use to unconsciously block ourselves from healing. But in this strategy we say things like: "My parents didn’t do anything wrong. This was my choice. They’re good people, I love them. This isn’t their fault." True on the surface I’m sure. But for many people this is hiding something.
Here’s what I’ve seen many times: People that make these statements, well first it has the feel of defensiveness, like they are defending their parents. This is where my ears perk up. You might be thinking, Emily, why are you going after my parents? I’m not going after them, I’m going after the lie. This lie is masquerading as loyalty, respect and virtue. So back to my ears perking up. When I feel the defensiveness I then suspect that there is a shameful story they have about themselves. “My parents didn’t do anything wrong” is so often covering a deep, unresolved wound. The statement itself shows an unexamined belief: Of course they did things wrong!! Once you start to examine your parents and yourself honestly and kindly you will see we mess up all the time!! That’s the realistic assessment.
This distorted belief comes from the wounded inner child. A wounded child needs to see her caregivers as perfect. A wounded child needs to protect her parents rather than feel protected by her caregivers. A wounded child mistakenly believes that she will hurt others with her feelings or her pain so she turns it inward. And here’s the key: The child makes themselves wrong to preserve the distorted image of their parents. So when I hear: “my parents didn’t do anything wrong, this is just something wrong with me” I’m hearing the voice of the wounded inner child coming out of a grown up body.
But this is not a grown up thought. A functional adult, even a secure, well-adjusted child, would have learned that caregivers make mistakes. But what’s important is that their caregivers owned their mistakes. This creates safety. The functional adult and the secure child also know that they are allowed to express their feelings to their caregivers; that this is not too much. This does not hurt anyone. This is healthy and normal. But the wounded child does not know this. Many people come to me not knowing this. So they have acted, ever since their childhood, as if they are wrong. That they must hold the blame and shame. That something is fundamentally wrong in their needs or wants.
Protecting your parents in this way is hurting you. Holding this blame and shame inside you is hurting you. This isn’t really about your caregivers. They don’t need your protection especially not a the price of your own freedom and integrity. And if you feel, right now, that they do urgently need your protection even if they aren’t on this earth anymore, know that this is not so. This is a lie that was told to you and then you have told yourself.
There is another way. If you're ready there's help! It might be with me or I can point you in the right direction. The first step is your willingness. It is the most powerful part of your recovery, the rest will come after that.
Does this hit home for you? Have you worked to overcome this particular strategy or still are? Tell me all about it.
Thanks for reading,
A therapist in Northern California offering free resources that help you heal your inner child and restore intuition.