Keeping on growing up
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Judith Schuepfer-Griffin Registered MBACP, BA Hons
9th May, 20150 Comments
To be part of a "tightly knit" family is a strongly upheld value in our culture. This can have advantages; we feel that we are part of something, that we belong. We feel supported and the family is our safety net. It can also have disadvantages: we might never grow up properly, always depending on the family to be there for us. We might do things in order to make family or parents proud of us instead of finding out what's right for us. We might forever be the child that needs the parents' approval. Some children won't leave home until they get married themselves; some parents are clinging to their children because their lives would feel empty without them (whether the children are living at home or not).
That's unhealthy for the children; they might never develop into rounded responsible adults, and it's unhealthy for the parents because they might avoid their own necessary further development, their own endeavour for a full and rich older age that contains more than being part of their children's lives.
Parents who cling to their children often need to be needed; what they're doing for their children is not really for the children, it is for themselves. Rarely parents say: "Go out into the world, my child, and explore. Find out who you are and what's right for you. Go and find your own way. We love you and we're here for you if you need us, but your life is yours. Don't try to make us proud, we are that already, go and make yourself proud!"
This doesn't only apply to young people; we might be in our 40's or 50's and still looking to our parents for approval. We might be very grown up, capable people but when we are with our parents we might immediately fall into the child position, looking for their approval. This can be very debilitating and disempowering. It will undermine our self-confidence and self-worth. It will forever bind us and distract us from finding our own way, our own solutions. To free ourselves from this tether might in some cases cause tension with parents and/or family and we have to become strong enough to live with their disapproval so that we can be ourselves and find appreciation within ourselves. They might try to pull us back into the fold in order to secure their influence on us. If that's the case, we need to cut the emotional umbilical cord so that we can truly grow up and live our lives our own way. You can still love your parents/family/children and live your own life. You can keep loving them even if they disapprove of your way of life. To be true to yourself is more important than to please others.
If you recognise the issues described in this article and maybe grapple with a complicated family dynamic, counselling might help you to understand what's actually happening, and to untangle the confusion.
About the author
My name is Judith, and I'm writing in the way I do because I would like to make psychological thinking more accessible for everyone. I have noticed that it often helps to create a context within which new ideas make more sense. With my articles I'm trying to create that context and hopefully also an enjoyable reading experience.
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