Why We Judge Our Parents

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Do your children seem judgmental of some of the things you do? Or do you feel triggered into judgment and lack of compassion in regards to your own parents?

When I teach the Shadow Energetics Workshop, I give examples for how couples carry each other’s shadow traits, how siblings are often functioning from opposites, and how children trigger our own shadows. When I was teaching day one of the training last weekend, it occurred to me that I don’t highlight as much that children are also triggered by the shadows their parents mirror to them. Our parents reflect to us what we have disowned in ourselves and we do the same for our kids.

Henry Ward Beecher points out that we don’t really know the extent of the love our parents felt for us as children until we have become a mother or father ourselves. I would like to add that we also don’t know what it feels like to be judged by our children until it happens to us. The experience of walking in the parental shoes gives us a different perspective on our own parents and their struggles. Being the parent means that we are mirroring shadow traits for our teenage or young adult children as well. It is uncomfortable to be at the receiving end of those projections but we need to keep in mind that this is not about us, as much as it feels that way, but it is about what our children have learned to disown; and we may even have taught them to disown that particular trait or energy.

When it comes to technology or other modern day problems that need solving, I am quick to throw my hands up in the air, going into helplessness. My daughters will help, but lately there has been some impatience from their side. They pride themselves on being independent and able to problem solve well. At their age, they have disowned their own neediness for outside support a bit. It appears to them as a quality that is not desirable, a shadow they have renounced.

Ironically, raising my daughters, I always affirmed their independence and encouraged them to put their mind to problem solving because my own mother mirrored helplessness to me. Independence is a very useful quality. At the same time, we are naturally interdependent as human beings.

Helping others with an open heart and gracefully accepting help from them in return connects us on a heart-to-heart level and fosters greater compassion and understanding for one another. What would society look like if everybody just took care of themselves without extending a helping hand? No energy is “bad” or “wrong”. Being able to ask for help is as useful and beneficial as being independent.

As a parent, it is my job not to take the response of the younger generation personally and to keep mirroring this shadow to them until they are ready to embrace it. We need to learn from each other in this situation. Their independence encourages me to problem solve more myself before turning to somebody for help. At the same time, they also need to be connected with that energy of “neediness”. As humans, we are all needy for emotional support and practical help from each other.

According to author James Gilliland, who has written about the seven essence mirrors, the fifth mirror reflects our parents to us: “It is often said we marry our father or mother. We often also become them, acting out the same healthy and unhealthy patterns we learned as a child.”

I used to see my mother as overly fearful and helpless, especially when something unforeseen occurred, and I also judged her for what I perceived from the outside as “settling” for a situation she was not happy with. Once my sister and I had grown up, she was clearly bored. I used to question why she didn’t find something new, something that was challenging and fulfilling.

Today, I certainly have more fears than I had when I was twenty. My daughters’ courage sometimes leaves me breathless. When the older one travels all over the world by herself or the younger one charges forward without fear of rejection, I have to remind myself that they are safe and to trust them to be okay. In some ways, I have become my mother. The horizon of the next generation is always a bit broader; it is a different world.

I also notice that the lure of what is familiar is strong. Starting something new can require a lot of positive self-talk and belief changes. It has a scary element to it. I did not have that empathy when I was younger. I lacked the understanding that what my mother was mirroring to me was what I had disowned within myself.

Sometimes we realize that we have become somewhat like our parents, other times we wake up to the fact that we are married to our father or mother. In an older blog, I wrote about Benjamin who grew up with a stepfather who was a raging alcoholic. Ben learned that anger is nothing but destructive and that he is weak and helpless when confronted with it. Before Ben realizes it, he is married to Grete, a partner who in that one important way is a replica of his stepfather. She didn’t appear to be angry when they first married, but their interactions bring this energy to the surface. When she is frustrated, she hides her vulnerability behind anger and she yells. Ben, however, has learned to be afraid of anger and aggression. When somebody only slightly raises their voice, not to mention starts yelling, his reptilian brain instantly goes into the fight, flight or freeze response. The more Ben freezes and avoids her instead of communicating what is going on for him, the more disconnected and invisible Grete feels and the louder she becomes, desperately trying to get through to him. They are caught in a cycle of frustration. Ben feels unsafe and unloved just as he felt during childhood. He judges Grete for being too angry. Grete feels invisible and unimportant, which is her childhood experience. She perceives his stone-walling as a danger cue and, if you so like, a counter-attack.

Ben shuts down because he feels controlled and powerless just as he did when he was growing up. As a child, he felt terrified of his stepfather’s anger. By the time he was a teenager, this fear had turned into stubborn resistance. Ben perfected the non-response, a completely still-face and quiet defiance of the man he hated. Grete mirrors his stepfather to him and he cannot help himself; he flips either into the helpless little boy or the stubborn teenager. In that quiet defiance and non-response lies Ben’s power. He is unaware how this dynamic perpetuates the problems they have. Even though Grete seems to be the stronger one on the surface, underneath the tip of the anger iceberg is always a more vulnerable experience.

Anger lives in Ben’s shadow and because it is an energy he is disconnected from and fears, he is bound to attract it into his life through other people, like his wife, until he integrates this shadow quality. Grete judges Ben for being weak and passive. The only way out for Ben and Grete is to embrace the opposite energy more. Ben needs to get in touch with his own anger and stand up calmly and assertively. That will allow Grete to be in her female energy more, be softer and gentler, allowing him to be more masculine and strong. By taking steps towards each other, they are both becoming more whole and are able to communicate and interact more productively.

Are you stuck in a parent-child interaction with your partner? In which ways do other people mirror your mother or father to you? And in which ways are you mirroring a disowned part for one of your children?

If you want to  work on your own triggers and shadows to live more conscious relationships contact me for a free phone consultation on either individual sessions or couple’s coaching.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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The Four Pillars of Shared Meaning in Our Marriage or Partnership

Is our love relationship or marriage just about raising kids, splitting chores, and making love, or is there more? What about the spiritual dimension of creating an inner life or inner culture together?

Usually, we think of culture in terms of large ethnic groups or even countries. Within those macro-cultures, each couple and each family creates their own mirco-culture. These smaller units also have their customs, rituals and stories or myths about what it means to be part of their group.

In order to create shared meaning, Drs John and Julie Gottman name four pillars to build a solid relationship on. These four pillars allow the couple a shared sense of meaning. With this shared culture, conflict is much less intense and perpetual problems are less likely to lead to gridlock.

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PILLAR ONE: Rituals of Connection

Powerful antidotes to disconnection are rituals with your spouse and children—together and separately. A ritual is a structured event or routine that you enjoy together. Such rituals include

  • rituals of communication like talking over dinner or the stress reducing conversation
  • celebration rituals, like birthdays, holidays or anniversaries
  • rituals around recreation like repeating weekend or seasonal activities, and vacation times together
  • sexual rituals, like initiating lovemaking
  • rituals around everyday living, like start-of-day rituals, end-of-day reunions, bedtime routines or dealing with illness

 

PILLAR TWO: Support for Each Other’s Roles

We all play different roles. We are not just partners, but also parents, children to our own parents, siblings, friends, and of course we take on professional roles as well. Our perspective on our own roles, and our partner’s view of them, can either add to the meaningfulness or create tension and disharmony.

Dissimilar perspectives on what the role of the husband/wife is, different views on parenting, and which kind of interactions with parents, siblings and friends are appropriate, can all contribute to conflict. Our views and our partner’s views on what it means to work and the significance we attach to our own work can either deepen our sense of connection or create tension.

It is important to speak about and understand what the different roles mean to each partner. Even if we do not agree with each other 100%, we can reach a consensus if we know what is significant to the other.

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PILLAR THREE: Shared Goals

Part of what makes life meaningful is the goals we work towards. No relationship stands on solid ground without shared goals of some kind. These are some useful questions to pursue.

  • Do we value each other’s accomplishments and honour each other’s personal goals unrelated to our relationship?
  • Do we share the same goals for our children, our life in general, our financial future and our old age?
  • Are our life dreams similar or compatible? If they are not identical, do we find ways to honour them?

 

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PILLAR FOUR: Shared Values and Symbols

Values and beliefs form the final pillar of shared meaning. They are sometimes represented by symbols. Such shared philosophies are around

  • love and trust
  • the importance of family
  • spiritual beliefs
  • the role of sex in the relationship
  • the importance and meaning of money and possessions
  • the importance of education
  • similar dreams about retirement and old age
  • the role of fun, play, adventure and connection with nature
  • similar values around personal freedom, autonomy and interdependence
  • sharing power in the relationship.

 

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Angelika, Belief Change and Relationship Coach

905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

The Stress Reducing Conversation

What happens when you are stressed or upset about something outside of your relationship and you turn to your partner to share? Is he or she able to relieve stress for you and be a true source of support? Or do you often feel even more alone after trying to vent and share?

Many couples seem to struggle with the difference between being supportive and helpful, and trying to “fix” things for each other. When our partner presents a problem to us, we often end up trying to fix it or solve it. We try to come up with advice or a solution. This approach on its own is as if we are saying, “You are not smart enough to solve this problem yourself, so let me do this for you.” We skip important steps by doing this.

Stress Reducing Conversation 1

 

The “Masters of Relationships”, as Drs John and Julie Gottman call couples who are successful at communicating and connecting, have a different approach when stress occurs in their partner’s life. Here are four steps to follow in the footsteps of the “Masters”.

  1. Ask Questions

First, you listen well and you show interest by asking your partner questions that allow you to get a better understanding what your partner’s subjective experience is.  For example, “how are you feeling about that?” or “what worries you most?” You are trying to understand WHAT your partner is feeling.

  1. Empathize With our Partner’s Feelings

Your second step is to empathize with your partner. Empathy sounds, for example, like this: “I can see why you feel upset / worried about that”, or “No wonder you are pretty angry”, or “It sounds like you had a really challenging day”. You are just making a statement about HOW your partner feels.

  1. Don’t side with the “enemy”

You always take your partner’s side in the matter. The goal of a stress reducing conversation is to help your partner feel less alone with what is stressing them out. One of the worst things to feel when you are stressed is that you are all by yourself. Even if you agree with the criticism or response your partner was experiencing from another, this is not the time to side with the other person. Postpone problem solving and refrain from pointing out that you agree with their opponent. Instead, just empathize with how your partner feels. That way you stay honest about your own thoughts, but at the same time you can show your partner support. You can be their ally and best friend and help relieve their stress by allowing them to share.

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  1. Don’t problem solve for your partner

Before you offer solutions, ask your partner what their thoughts are in regards to shifting a situation or solving a problem. Trust your partner to have good insights and some ideas on what to do. If your partner asks you for your perspective or for solutions, you can offer to solve the problem together. Fixing is not helping, neither your partner, nor your relationship.

If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field on the left side of the bar. Thank you for your support!

Angelika

Relationship Coaching and Belief Changes

905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Turtles and Hailstorms

romantic-love

Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt call the template or idealized image of positive and negative qualities of our primary caregivers our “Imago”. Through our subconscious programs, we are drawn to somebody who matches this template.

In other words, our partner carries some of our shadows. He or she displays to us what we are struggling with and are working on. They are a mirror of what we have learned to identify with or disown during childhood. They might not superficially appear to be like our primary caregiver but we will inevitably end up feeling the same feelings we did as a child. Partially, those could be positive feelings of belonging, being accepted, safe and loved. But the relationship also brings up painful feelings due to our more traumatic experiences, and activates our childhood hurts. Unconsciously, we seek out a partner with whom we can heal each other’s childhood wounds.

If you had a mother who abandoned you, you might unconsciously expect to be abandoned again while seeking out a partner who is like your mother in some ways, to relive and heal the old experience. If you had a father who never stood up for you, you might unconsciously seek a partner who is also afraid to stand up and protect you, in the unconscious hopes that somebody will finally stand-up for you.

Partnerships are meant to resurface feelings and experiences from our childhood. “About 90 percent of the frustrations your partner has with you are really about their issues from childhood.” (LaKelly Hunt) Even if we have convinced ourselves consciously that the person we are attracted to is a good match and not at all like our parents or caregivers, our subconscious meanwhile as a completely different agenda. It has already figured out early on who we can relive our childhood traumas with, hoping for a happier ending this time.

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If you are wondering whether your partner echoes shadows from the past for you and what they are, you can do the following exercise. Make a list of frustrations, problems and unmet needs in regards to your primary care giver(s), for example “she never listened to me and that made me feel…” or he “never had time for me and that made me feel…”. Once you have completed that list, make a list of issues you have with your partner and how they make you feel. Compare the lists and notice any similarities. Talk to your partner about the similarities. Once he or she understands that he or she triggers your childhood emotions, the work to keep each other safe and meet each others needs can begin.

You and your partner may have a lot in common but Hendrix and LaKelly Hunt have found that couples are often incompatible in how they handle stress and conflict. When it comes to handling stress and conflicts, people’s reactions fall into two categories: minimizers or maximizers. When minimizers are anxious, they contain their energy and go inside. Like a turtle, they retreat into their shell. When maximizers are anxious, they tend to express themselves loudly. Hendrix and LaKelly Hunt call this person a hailstorm. Their energy flows outward and they prefer to process their feelings with others.

Turtles process slowly and inwardly. From the outside, it looks like not much is happening and as if the person is avoiding rather than addressing the issue. However, the turtle processes his or her feelings and thoughts quietly on the inside, reflecting carefully before responding. Hailstorms visibly get things done; they usually have a to-do list and love being able to cross things off their list.

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When the Turtle feels flooded and becomes overloaded, he or she needs to withdraw. To the Hailstorm, it can feel like the Turtle disappeared. That makes the Hailstorm more anxious and he or she will start hailing to get the partner’s attention.

Both partners need to learn to accommodate each others differences in processing. The Hailstorm can learn to give the Turtle a little shell time and make them feel safe to come out again soon by letting them know how much they are appreciated and valued.

To coax out the turtle you can

  1. Ask them what they need right now. Sometimes they are not sure, but be curious about why they are hiding.
  2. Don’t do anything; give them space.
  3. Write a short note of appreciation and leave it somewhere for them to find.

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And the Turtle can learn to be more courageous when he or she sees the storm clouds gathering. “Hailstorms hail because they are overwhelmed. They often feel like they’re holding the weight of the world. And when you retreat, the Hailstorm feels even more alone. So the minute you hear a rumble, give them your full attention. Offer kindness and support.” (Hendrix) The fastest way to get the storm to stop is to assure the Hailstorm that you have got their back. Once they realize they rely on you and you will do your part to keep them safe, the sun will shine once again.

To calm the hailstorm

  1. Respond! Let them know you are not retreating. Respond with facial expressions, a kind note, a service or gesture that shows them you care how they feel.
  2. Listen and repeat back how the Hailstorm is feeling. They don’t feel heard. Show them you hear and understand.
  3. Ask “Is there something I can do for you?” They need to know you have their back.

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Partners can learn to not judge the other for how they are. As Hal and Sidra Stone point out, “what we judge in others is actually the medicine we need”.

Turtles and hailstorms can teach each other what they are each missing to become more whole. “Turtles need to learn how to push their energy out and how to ‘show up’. This means expressing themselves out loudly and clearly, like the Hailstorm does. And hailstorms need to learn the turtle’s wisdom of stepping back and containing their energy.” (Hendrix)

Ironically, both partners need to learn how to be more like each other. When we embrace the shadow sides which we have disowned, we take a step towards each other. “As the Turtle becomes more storm-like, and the Hailstorm becomes more turtle-like, balance is restored” (Hendrix) within the relationship, but also within ourselves. We have reclaimed a disowned part of ourselves.

Belief Change Coaching, Relationship Coaching and Workshops on various topics

Angelika, 905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

If you are enjoying my articles, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.

 

Carrying Your Partner’s Disowned Shadow

shadow two people at beach

Partners very often carry each other’s opposite energy and have polarized into the two. My parents carried each other’s disowned energy. My mother was the emotional one, the one with all the passion and the one making and keeping all the social contacts. She was also the one who liked to spend money and the one who could be impulsive. My father was the one who was always rational, unable to show any emotions, not as skilful at connecting with people; he was thrifty and always striving to provide for a safe financial future.

Only since my mom passed on, has he begun to reclaim all the energy she carried for him. He has surprised us with how good he is at connecting with others and really caring about other people. My children are hearing for the first time in their life an, “I love you,” from their grandfather. He shows emotions more comfortably and has embraced enjoying life.

Why is that possible? Has he suddenly learned to be social and emotional and able to spend some money on himself without guilt? No. That energy was always part of him, but my parents had an unspoken contract, that they would carry each other’s unwanted energy. This contract is not conscious, so as long as my mother was alive they were not able to shift out of this polarization and to reclaim their lost parts.

 

shadow parents and children

One of the energies my ex-husband and I had split up between us was being a parent. His attitude towards parenting was very different from my mine. He was more relaxed about being a parent, going with the flow, sometimes flying by the seeds of his pants. Being a teacher, I looked at parenting as a series of opportunities to provide educational moments. I planned ahead and made sure we always had something educational, creative or active to do. I was also—and that’s where the problem was—invested in being the better parent. I would take care of all the school-related situations, after school activities, play dates etc. He didn’t have a chance to step up and be the parent he was capable of being. When we split up, I suddenly saw a man who wanted to be involved, who stepped up to the task.

At first, I was outraged. Why hadn’t he parented like this before? Why hadn’t he shown more interest when we were still married and had supported me more? I felt really unappreciated in everything I had done all those years. I felt like he took advantage of me and left me alone with something he should have helped me with. Initially, I wasn’t able to see how the children would benefit from this.

It took me quite a while to realize that he was always an invested parent but had not seen a chance to display it until the situation changed. Who has gained from this are our children who have been able to grow up with two very different parents, two different views of the world and the freedom to choose which one works better for them. He is the best dad my girls could possibly have, not because he has learned to be like me but because he had an opportunity to claim his own parenting energy and be a fabulous co-parent for me.

anger

A very common polarization between partners is splitting up the energy of being angry and peaceful. When one person is afraid of anger, the anger goes “underground”. One possible result is that they can draw an angry partner into their life. This angry partner might be mirroring one of the subject’s parents or another person from their past. As a child, they have learned that it is not good to be angry as anger can be abused to suppress and hurt others. The subconscious decision then is never to feel angry; thus this part is being pushed away.

Benjamin has grown up with a step-father who was an angry alcoholic. In his childhood home, it was either his step-father’s way or the highway. At age 16, he ran away from home and never came back. He learned that anger is destructive and that he is weak and helpless when confronted with it. His choice at age 16 was to run away, instead of addressing the situation in a more productive way.

The vacuum which exists when we deny energy activates a certain frequency and we draw in another person with exactly the same frequency. Before Ben realizes it, he is married to Grete, a partner who displays anger frequently. When she is frustrated, she yells, believing that it is better to express your frustration loudly. Ben, however, has learned to be afraid of anger and aggression. When somebody yells at him the fight, flight or freeze responses are activated. Usually he flees or freezes.The Little Boy inside of him cannot help himself.

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The more Ben shuts down and does not communicate, the angrier Grete becomes. They are caught in a cycle of frustration. Ben feels unloved and is judging Grete as too angry, and Grete feels unheard and unappreciated and views Ben as weak and too soft.

We always have to remember that NO energy is bad! Every energy is useful and serves us when used with consciousness. Anger energy is very helpful when someone threatens us. It is also useful as a forward-moving force. Anger gives us feedback that we perceive something as unfair and that we need to step up to make a situation fairer in some way. Anger helps us to be more assertive and to stand up for ourselves and others. The key to using anger productively is awareness that it exists and needs to be fed and used consciously.

The only way out for Ben and Grete is to embrace the opposite energy more. Ben needs to get in touch with his own anger and stand up calmly and assertively. Grete needs to understand that softness and gentleness can be a very useful and persuasive energy as well. By taking steps towards each other, they are both becoming more complete and are able to communicate and interact more productively.

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What energy is your partner carrying for you? What are you carrying for your partner? Give yourself and your partner the gift to become more whole by doing some shadow work.

Angelika 905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca