Psychological Self-Help

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845
Who is to blame for our faults? If we looked carefully and with an
accepting heart, we'd see the deep-rooted reasons for our parents'
behavior, even abusive acts. The reasons usually go back generations,
either in terms of genes (ability, interests, temperament) or acquired
personality traits and needs. Of course, there is also the influence of
our friends and culture, and the effects of our social-economic class
and religion. Nor should we deny our own responsibility between 5 and
25 for discovering our true self, correcting our childish behavior, and
straightening out our distorted thinking, regardless of what our
parents did to us or taught us. In short, the blaming should be spread
around or stopped altogether. 
I had no shoes and complained, until I met a man who had no feet.
If our parents are held partly responsible for our problems, then
they surely deserve an equal share of the credit for our good traits
too. For instance, research by Koestner, Franz, and Weinberger (1990)
has shown that our level of empathy as an adult is positively related to
specific characteristics of our parents: (1) Dad's involvement in caring
for us, (2) Mom's tolerance for our being dependent, (3) Mom's
encouraging us to control our anger and aggression, and (4) Mom's
satisfaction from being a mother. We need much more detailed
knowledge, such as this, about many connections between childhood
experiences and adult adjustment, but we don't need to blame
anyone. We can usually forgive ourselves for how we raised our
children (see Dwinell & Baetz, 1993). 
One approach has been for therapists and clinicians to look
backwards and describe or speculate about the parent-child
relationship difficulties associated with (causing?) specific problems,
such as alcoholism or family violence. Ackerman (1994) describes
"emotionally silent" sons from dysfunctional families. A related clinical
approach is to describe the common problems associated with (caused
by?) specific situations, such as rapidly changing mother-daughter
relationships during adolescence (Apter, 1990) or continuing mother-
daughter conflicts later in life (Firman & Firman, 1990). Recently,
there has been some focus on the problems resulting from certain
kinds of father-daughter relationships (Goulter & Minninger, 1994),
such as romantic-sexual difficulties (Secunda, 1992) and compulsive,
perfectionistic codependency (Ackerman, 1989). Most of these
descriptions are based on talking with troubled people, not on
objective research. Nevertheless, it may be useful information (it's
better than being ignorant). Clinical opinion alone is not good enough,
however. 
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