Psychological Self-Help

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and hurtful." To stop this "song and dance" the son or daughter has to
say, "No, I won't do what you are asking, and it's your choice, mother,
to suffer or be happy." You can't rescue your mother or father from
her/his unhappy childhood. You can carefully explain your reasons for
your actions, showing that you considered their wishes, that you love
them, but you have a life of your own. 
Having a weak, dominated parent may be a problem but even
more serious is a dominant, aggressive, authoritarian parent, often a
father. He/she feels like he/she owns the child. Often the child has
been "bought off" with cars, clothes, college, vacations, a nice
wedding, etc. The controlling parent's technique for keeping the child
(even if 20 years old) down is to keep him/her dependent and
insecure. This is often done by belittling the 20-year-old "child." "Be
little" and helpless is the dominant parent's message. As a child or
young adult, your inner child may fight, surrender, or join the
tyrannical parent. The child who was a fighter may have had a bitter
childhood and then marry someone gentle and passive only to resent
the partner's lack of strength and to miss the joy of battle. The
surrenderer may have been dominated and frightened as a child; they
often become underachievers and generally unhappy failures crushed
by the overwhelming parent. The joiners grab a little of the power by
becoming aggressive like the parent or by joining the family business.
They never challenge the authoritarian parent and, thus, are never
free. The escape from all three of these problematic solutions is to first
recognize the scared, angry, threatened little kid inside the
authoritarian. How did he/she get that way? Was he/she a spoiled,
pampered child? Or a child who got little attention without demanding
it? Then decide what you can do: become aware that your inner child
is frightened of the parent's inner child. Your reasonable adult will
have to take control and end your defiant or "I'm worthless" or
imitator song and dance. Be an assertive independent person and plan
your own life; be the equal of the strong, critical, distrusting,
controlling parent. 
Another type of domination is by a saintly parent who tells you
exactly what to do, feel, and think because it is "good" or "the right
way" or "God's word" or "what must be done." Breaking this parent's
rules causes shame, a feeling that we are bad or sinful, and arouses
an appropriate concern that our parents won't like us. Eventually, you
may have serious troubles: you feel imprisoned, in conflict about what
is right and wrong, rejected by others for being so rigid and
judgmental, or burdened with lots of psychosomatic complaints. What
can you do? Start questioning some of the old rules, using your own
reason and life experience. Next recognize there is a scared child
inside your saintly mother or father, i.e. that super-confident voice of
authority is simply a little child inside saying, "my mommy (daddy)
says..." and repeating what he/she heard from his/her saint (your
grandmother or grandfather who repeated her/his saint's rules, etc.).
Decide your own values (see chapter 3) and just hope your saint can
accept you as an independent person who carefully plans his/her own
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