2 mental survival methods if you never hear this from your parents: “Great job, I love you.”
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We want to be loved and our contributions valued. Boy, does it hurt when you don’t get this kind of acknowledgment from your parents. When you get nothing but grief and you never get a good dose of empathy and compassion, eventually you may stop trying so hard to get it.
In fact long lasting bitterness, contempt for your father/ mother, and even depression can be the nasty outcome of not getting a seemingly simple “I love you”, “good job”. And yet this is family, you cannot easily pack up your stuff and just leave this relationship. Are there mental survival tools? Yes, they are mainly love and the power of forgiveness.
This topic is dear to me as my dad royally messed up his life and with that he messed up our family as well as the financial well-being. Struggling with alcoholism he left my mom, sister, and I no choice but to evict him from our lives. We kicked him out of our debt ridden home. He had been unpredictable in mood and behavior, and he often had blurted out my most personal thoughts in public that I had shared with him in private. Then he had been unbelievably demanding what my school grades needed to be. He had rarely (never for my sister) acknowledged a job well done, and I guess due to his generation not being used to it also had never asserted that he loved me.
Sound familiar? It hurt! It hurt very deeply. I resented him and did not want to become like him. I know that this is not the worst that can happen, but this kind of hurt is bad for your personal development. How do you develop self-motivation from this? How do you fight depression and holding a grudge? How do you combat very hateful thoughts? How do you learn how to trust anyone again? How do you get YOUR life back?
Hatred is not sustainable, but love is. That is the one key mental survival strategy that should permeate your thinking and being. Love opens up your thoughts, heart, and gut to all the great things life can put in front of you. Think about it. Hatred is like road rage, once your lizard brain engages (the one that thinks fight, flight, or freeze) adrenaline starts pumping and the game is on: Common sense goes out the door and you only focus on “winning” the fight. The tit-for-tat escalates indefinitely until a “winner” emerges. Yeah, right. The news is full of such stories when they end in disaster, which is all too often. This can happen to you also when you engage in hating your parents. There is no winner!
Love changes this dynamic altogether. It is all encompassing and is proving to be long term sustainable. First step to getting better is to start liking and then later loving yourself. Self-respect comes from being able to look at the mirror and being able to say “I love who I am”. What’s not to love? You are unique and are blessed with special gifts and talents. Look for them and start feeling better the moment you mean what you say.
This kind of love and self-respect spills over into how you feel for others. Loving others means that you listen to them. You have empathy and compassion for them. In turn they will learn to respect and liking / loving you – or for whom you have become. Do this even with your worst enemies – parents.
This is leads to the second mental survival strategy. It is the power of forgiveness. Your parents may not ever respond to you any differently (I doubt it though), but the important point here is that you have made a change for the better by kicking off Love. Realize that even the most powerful parents don’t have power over you: Power is granted and that means your hands have a tight grip on that lever. Feel better already? You should. But how do you forgive much less forgive them for what they may have done to you?
First and foremost thank your brain for sharing the bad thoughts (I am channeling Mary Lore here, thanks Mary). Put those thoughts on your mental parking lot for a little while. Make a point of picking a great time for you to have a little solitude. Close your eyes and start thinking about the person that hurt you. Now say a prayer and forgive this person. Say it aloud. You may not be able to forget, but to forgive someone is the most precious gift you can give to yourself.
It unlocks the grip that the bad and hateful thoughts used to have on you. You and your thoughts will be free. It takes a while for this new reality to settle in, but from personal experience I can share with you that this feeling is totally elating. You get to have your life back.
Also, go out and look around. Get a bearing on how bad your “bad” really was/is. I used to think that I had it oh so tough. Guess what, there are always people who have had it so much tougher than you. Seek them out and share your stories. I would bet money that you leave with a sense of inspiration how others may have dealt with their issues and will also no longer feel the weight of the world on your shoulders: most of these other people had the same thoughts, feelings, issues, and solutions. You are never really alone in anything you do.
Getting openly acknowledged and loved by your parents is rock star treatment. Often, their lives get out of control (think divorce rate), or they have other issues and you do not make the top ten priority list. As hurt as you may be, practice love and forgiveness. In the end you get to live your life how you want and you are enriched by friends, family and work that enjoy you as much as you enjoy them. Should you choose having a family of your own, please remember that the best gift in life of especially a teenager is for you to say: “Great job, I love you.”