Being abused by a parent can be emotionally and spiritually painful. Forgiving the abused parent can be difficult however not impossible. If a person has the desire to forgive an abusive parent they will be able to with time on their side. To help understand where a parent’s abusive behavior originates from and how someone can come to forgive an abusive parent, I have interviewed psychotherapist Joyce A. Thompson M.S., LCMFT.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I grew up in an abusive environment, and later married twice, into very dysfunctional marriages. I had very little self-confidence and my self-esteem was almost non-existent. So I finally made myself a priority, getting started with a therapist and giving serious thought to why I was marrying the wrong type of men. When it happens once, it can be ‘bad luck’. When it happens twice, there’s a pattern that needs to be looked at.”
“Eventually, I knew what I would and would not accept in a relationship and I began to look for the type of man which I desired, instead of a settling for a man, out of fear that nothing better would come along. Then, on my 44th birthday, I was laid off with hundreds of others from a local banking firm. A few months earlier, I had met a wonderful man who turned out to be my soul mate. He was supportive and encouraged me to begin college. Within five years, I had obtained my Associates, Bachelor’s, and Master’s degrees and opened up a private practice as a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Eventually, my business grew and I have since brought on three other Marriage & Family Therapists and several Certified Massage Therapists. The reason I added the Certified Massage Therapists to my group practice, was because I believe so strongly in the deeply rooted connection between the mind and body. The body will remember what the mind tries to forget. I now have my Independent Clinical Licensure as a Licensed Clinical Marriage & Family Therapist (LCMFT). I offer help and hope to many who feel there is no hope and I find that to be SO rewarding!”
Where does the parent’s abusive behavior originate?
“Oftentimes, abusive parents were themselves abused as children. Children learn to parent from watching their parents model parenting (or lack of parenting) skills. When they don’t learn effective communication skills from their parents, they instead use the skills that they did learn from their parents – whether good or bad.”
What type of impact can an abusive parent have on their child’s overall life?
“Their children will have a tendency to get into abusive adult relationships. They tend to have lower paying jobs, or end up on disability income, because they often are afraid to attempt college or professional types of employments. They have a higher frequency of emotional or mental health issues to deal with and are hospitalized in psychiatric units at a higher frequency than those who grow up in healthy childhood homes. These individuals tend to also have higher bouts of physical illness, because they don’t know healthy ways to cope. They tend to have a higher incidence of stress in their life, which eventually impairs their immune system and their ability to fight off illness and disease. Understandably, they tend to be abusive with their children. In some cases, the child grows up to be a perfectionist. This may not sound so bad, but it causes them to feel they can never achieve enough. They often feel empty on the inside and feel like a fake, even when they have high-paying jobs and prestigious careers. They too tend to have unhealthy adult relationships and a tendency to be abusive towards their children in some manner or another.”
How does someone go about in forgiving his or her abusive parent?
“I feel someone who was abused as a child needs to decide when or if they ‘want’ to forgive their parents. Nobody should feel forced by a therapist or anyone else to forgive. True forgiveness comes from within, naturally; not when forced. Some people choose not to forgive, or they do so, but on their own terms. I feel this is their decision to make. In order to fully forgive, one must first face and address the damage which was inflicted upon them. After that, they may choose to move forward with forgiveness. But this is a strictly individual decision that they alone must make, when they are ready to do so.”
What last advice would you like to leave for someone who wants to forgive his or her abusive parent?
“If they genuinely want to forgive their parent(s), they should seek the help of a therapist who is skilled in working with trauma survivors. This person will be able to help them navigate the often ambivalent feelings, which typically accompanies this type of ‘work’. The therapist will be able to help them in pacing their emotions and in dealing with them as they arise.”
Thank you Joyce for the interview on how to forgive an abusive parent. For more information on Joyce A. Thompson, owner of Emotional Journey, LLC, you can check out her website on www.emotionaljourney.org.
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