Answers to important questions about interacting with parents

Answers to important questions about interacting with parents

How does co-dependency manifest itself in relation to parents? As a rule, it manifests itself in a feeling of constant parental presence. It is when we internally coordinate all decisions, all steps, and in general all parts of our life with the opinion of our parents, as if we symbolically look back at them.

Now let’s talk about the signs of incomplete separation, which clearly demonstrates your co-dependence:

  1. You feel a lot of guilt if you don’t call your parents for a long time;
  2. You idealize or demonize your parents;
  3. You prefer visiting your parents to any other kind of leisure time – or you don’t, but you visit them often anyway, trying to avoid feelings of guilt;
  4. You cannot express yourself freely in front of your parents (e.g., swearing, showing off your tattoo, or talking about an impractical or expensive purchase);
  5. You are often haunted by the fear of your parents’ death;
  6. You often have fantasies involving your parents. Something like: “I’m going to get rich and buy my mom a new car!”;
  7. You are convinced that “your parents put their lives for you” and now you owe it to them to return the favor;
  8. You don’t make your own space, but use your parents’. For example, you love your parents’ country house, but you do not buy your own, but you go to your parents’, wondering why you need two country houses;
  9. Parents feed you, give you money, and you are convinced that this is how it should be;
  10. It seems to you that there are things that only your parents can handle, and you haven’t grown up to them yet;
  11. It is as if there is something preventing you from building a career and earning more money;
  12. You are not able to build a personal life. In a relationship you “do not see” partner, he constantly owes you. If a partner is even briefly missing, you panic and consider it a betrayal;
  13. In conflict situations, you behave childish: throwing tantrums, taking offense, declare a boycott or ignore the problem;
  14. You play the role of the victim and are afraid to take responsibility for your life;
  15. You have an authority figure next to you (friend, boss, husband, wife) whom you trust more than you trust yourself.

We form our identity through identification with mom and dad: it’s as if we take from each of them the building material for our own inner world. And if one of them was absent, we might feel like “a chair without one leg”.

There is, however, another dimension to all this. The physical presence of a parent can be successfully replaced with a fantasy of him or her. This concept was formulated by the French psychoanalyst Lacan and is called “the name of the father”. Lacan suggested that even if a parent died or left the family, the child could get a glimpse of him or her from the other parent’s stories.

The mother talks about what the father was like: what values he shared, what he considered good and what he considered bad. All of this allows the child to construct a fantasy about the father, to identify with it and thus find the “missing leg”.

But it also happens that in the family, talking about the father is a taboo subject. Then it is possible to cope with the situation by talking about him with relatives, family friends, those who knew him and with whom he was acquainted. It is likely that in the process a lot of emotions will emerge, including anger, but it will allow you to better understand your relationship to him and finally fill the emptiness that was formed after his exit from family.

Why is it that when you want to avoid the life that your parents lived, it doesn’t succeed?

First, because trying to be as different from your parents as possible is exactly the same as looking up to them (just from the other side). Both mean that we have not yet found our own footing (and we build our life with our parents in mind). Whether we imitate them or try to do the opposite, it doesn’t matter. In any case we use their experience as an internal reference point and are doomed to repeat their mistakes to a greater or lesser extent.

Second, for all its possible downsides, the parental experience is something we know very well. Whatever benefits the new options may promise, they, like uncharted lands, harbor many potential dangers.

Thirdly, our psyche is designed so that once in a traumatic situation, it will try to return to it in order to lose again (but with a happy outcome).

That is actually why the process of separation is so important, because it is designed to free us from the baggage of parental attitudes, traumas, complexes and neuroses, and allow us to acquire our own.


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