“I can’t change,” the 40-year-old man said during a therapy session. “So what that I know and accept that my mother is selfish and ungiving? What good does that do me? Knowing is fine, but so what?”
“You mentioned that you were proud of yourself this last weekend. You were able to force yourself to be a good father, kind and supportive to your children. Plus, you actually had a good time.”
“Yeah. It was hard, but I did it.”
“You described your mother as self-centered, a woman who only cares about herself. Always putting her needs first and ignoring your needs.”
“She is. So?”
“You said she was never warm and giving.”
“As a child and now as an adult, you became like her and often you act like her — cold and distant. You want to do only what you want to do. Sound familiar?
He just stared.
But last weekend, you overcame that selfish feeling. You acted like the man you want to be, giving and loving. You weren’t acting like her anymore.”
“That’s disgusting that I act like her. It’s terrible.”
I nod in agreement.
“Doctor. I WANT HER OUT OF ME! Get my mother out of me!” he said forcefully.
“That’s what this therapy is all about. We’re making progress towards doing just that.”
What happened to this man, happened to all of us. When we were little we incorporated parts of our parents into ourselves, the good parts and the bad parts. The way they related — loved, hated, disconnected, abused etc. all became so deeply embedded that being able to distinguish between what is us and what is them becomes almost impossible.
Often, the job of therapy and our personal challenge is to clarify who we are and understand that we don’t have to spend the rest of our lives acting like the dysfunctional parents who raised us. Thanks!