I was watching an interview with Sheila Nevins, world-renowned documentary film maker and producer, on CBS Sunday Morning when something happened that angered me from deep within. Ms. Nevins shared very vulnerably that she knew her mother was never interested in her or in being a mother and the interviewer argued with her. She argued with her! Really?! First of all, was she there to witness the relationship between Sheila and her mother? Second of all, what does it benefit to challenge another person's perspective on how their parents treated them? It certainly didn't feel like good journalism! In fact, it made my respect for the interviewer's journalism decrease. All that aside, I must confess, it hit me hard because this is often my experience too.
Many times throughout the years, I have vulnerably shared my experience with my own parents concluding that I was never truly loved by my dad and I am not sure if my mom ever truly loved me. Well meaning people jump to my defense, or so they think, but actually they are jumping to my parents' defense, and they argue that my experience can't possibly be true. Of course my parents love me! Parents love their children, right?! This used to really tick me off, until I figured out what was going on.
The thought that a parent could not love their own child
is terrifying to most human beings.
We want to believe that every parent adores their child and loves that child until their heart breaks into a million sparkling diamond pieces. I want to believe that too because I have two boys in my life that I did not give birth to, nor did I adopt, and I feel like I will die if I am ever separated from them. I love them with an intensity that simultaneously thrills me and scares the hell out of me and I can't imagine what they could possibly do or say to reverse that reality. The difference between me loving the boys and my parents loving me is how healed our stories were when we were given the gift of loving a child.
I didn't know as an infant how wounded my parents were, especially my dad. I didn't even know that as I grew and tried everything I could to please them and win over their love. It never worked and it still hasn't and it won't until they can each vulnerably approach their own wounds and offer them up for healing. Remember, hurt people hurt people. When we are wounded and stuck in the festering of that wound, we do not have the ability to be fully present to relationship with another. In fact, we either use others to heal the wound or blame others for the wound. Either way, love is not at the center.
I remember the day I embraced this reality and my healing began. I was working with a coach and she kept insisting I would feel loved by my parents if I could recognize they were loving me the only way they knew how to love. The only problem is I have a fundamental belief that love does not intimidate or coerce or demand its own way, therefore what I was experiencing with my parents wasn't even close to love. In fact, it was driving me to question my own worthiness of love. After reflecting on what my coach wanted me to shift in my thinking, I returned to her and told her I had thought it over and had decided if I were to shift in the way she was asking me to, I would be untrue to myself and I would enable my parents to continue to treat me poorly. She is an excellent coach, so we changed approach and that is a story for another day.
For now, what is important is we all are responsible for our own healing and like it or not, we have all been wounded in some way by people who have failed, used, abandoned, and/or abused us. Hurt people hurt people. What we do with the hurt makes all the difference. We can ignore it and it will continue to wound every generation to come in some way. We can bravely face it and allow our healing to begin. When we do, we are freed up to vulnerably love and be loved with the truest of loves based on trust and intimacy. We
are free to have our hearts expand through loving the next generation entrusted to us. We are free to experience our own worthiness, purpose, and the joy of every aspect of what it means to be human. And, please, never argue with another human being's experience! Ask questions that promote empathy and understanding. A better response to Sheila's vulnerability would have been, "I can't imagine what that must be like for you. Can you share a bit more about how you know that so others can learn from your story?" When we are uncomfortable with another's reality, it is because it isn't our reality, but trying to make it our reality only makes the experience more difficult for the person sharing so vulnerably. Honor their vulnerability by bravely entering into their reality through quiet presence and empathetic questions.