When I first began working with a life coach, I was stuck on one thought that I would circle back to every session. This thought was based in the fact that my parents had recently sent me a letter informing me I was effectively removed from the family. On a purely mental level, this made perfect sense. I was a huge disappointment to them and refused to fit in with their worldview, so the most logical answer was to part ways. BUT, I kept getting stuck with this thought:
My parents should love me.
Why should my parents love me? Because they are my parents. Parents love their kids. Parents stick with their kids. Parents don’t abandon their children even if those children are now adults. Parents work things out because they love their children so much, they will do anything to stay connected with their child.
There is only one problem with that line of reasoning. My parents didn’t fit that perspective.
As I worked with my coach, I kept driving at how to become a lovable daughter so my parents would want me back. My endlessly patient coach walked with me through this scenario in about a thousand different ways and it always ended in the same place. I was not willing to be the daughter they expected me to be and they were not willing to accept the daughter they have.
This caused no small amount of anguish for me. Should I change? Should I give up my values? Should I become small? Should I accept abuse as normal? I was tempted because I wanted to be loved as close to unconditionally as is humanly possible.
My coach proposed my parents were loving me the only way they knew how.
Was I willing to accept that kind of love?
You would think my response was either a yes or no, but instead my response was, “That’s not love when you put conditions around whether a person is lovable and worthy of belonging.”
Then my coach uttered the shift of a lifetime for me. This was a transformational reframe that I did not see coming. She said, “Okay, so where is the love you desire available to you?”
I didn’t understand what she meant because I spouted back, “It’s not! They aren’t capable of loving me without conditions and love with conditions is NOT love!”
I think she may have pressed her mute button to let out an exasperated sigh before she responded, “Yes, we are agreed, that love is not available to you through your parents. Where is it available to you? That is your homework for the week. Think about where that kind of love is available to you.”
I was puzzled and pissed. Really?! Is she not hearing me? I want my parents to love me because they should love me!
What saved me that week is the fact that I love a challenge. I pondered. I reflected. I anguished. I walked many miles to get my creative thinking skills flowing. As my next session approached, I was still quite doubtful that my coach knew what she was doing with this strange reframe she proposed.
During my session, I answered her reframe with almost a question by saying,
“I guess that love is available to me through my aunt and uncle?”
If she could have hugged me through the phone line, my coach would have squeezed the air out of me. “Yes! Yes! Yes! And tell me about how they love you?” was her excited response.
It has taken years of reframing “my parents should love me” into “where is the love available” and it is perhaps the most powerful and transformational reframe I have experienced in my life. Fear doesn’t let me forget that my parents continue to choose a family that thinks and believes like they do without any question or argument. Sometimes, my heart wonders if I might be able to put aside myself and enter back into that system and then I remember, that isn’t the kind of love I long for. Just because they are my biological parents doesn’t guarantee they are healthy and whole enough to love me without condition. They too are humans on a beautifully complex journey and right now, that journey doesn’t include me because my very existence threatens their way of life.
So, every time fear whispers the taunt, “even your parents don’t love you,” I remember and am grateful for where the love is available to me. The love flows through my dad’s brothers and their wives, as well as my dad’s cousins. Isn’t that just like love to show up in the most unexpected and marvelous of places?