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How to Relate with a Crazy Parent

What is a healthy parent?

I define it as a protective force, a guide, a support, a place of profound unconditional love and nurturance.

Not all people have experienced this with their parents.

What is a crazy parent?

In this sense, a crazy parent doesn’t mean a clinically or mentally ill person. Nor is this my attempt at judging anyone. Using the term ‘crazy parent’ is my way of bringing a lighthearted humor to a meaningful subject that many of us can relate to. In this article, crazy parent means a parent that is disconnected such that he/she is unable to be there consistently for the child. This parent is not aware enough to perceive the child’s needs and to communicate clearly and kindly. A crazy parent means that this parent displays an inability to show genuine self sacrifice in the name of parental love. This is not always needed, but often. A crazy parent generally behaves in a primarily selfish way.

One of the most common questions people ask me about is how to relate with their unhealthy parent in a more healthy way. Over the past 19 years of teaching I have discovered a truth:

Most people are born to at least one parent (sometimes both) who are older than them on a body level and younger than them on a soul level. This baffles many who experience this and it causes them to dump a lot of prana, energy, focusing on the why of it all.

As we grow into adulthood, we begin to experience first hand that life is filled with pressures and responsibilities. And we come to recognize that evolving is not easy for anyone. Not really. The healthy child who becomes the adult will note this, but he/she will always remember a lack of effort from the parent to put himself/herself aside for the child, as this signals to the child his/her lack of value. If that sacrifice is not forthcoming during childhood, the adult child can be left with a feeling of devaluation, which later becomes a creeping sense of unworthiness.

When a parent behaves predominantly selfishly, he/she behaves in a more childlike manner than adult. It’s not to say that every moment a parent needs to sacrifice to be considered healthy. But some measure of placing the needs of the child in front of his or her own is important at times. When a parent gets stuck in the unhealthy or crazy zone he/she hasn’t raised himself/herself to the point where self sacrifice is understood as not only a support for the child, but his/her own gift and opportunity, as well. This can frustrate, confuse, enrage, sadden and ultimately hurt the children of these parents. If you are a child of one of these kinds of parents, you likely often had to both parent yourself at times, as well as to some extent your parent, since he or she took a more childlike role. And the realization of all of this can feel like yet another loss, a loss of innocence, a loss of a sense of protection etc.

While the realization of losses may bring up unpleasant feelings, seeing what’s at play within you, begins the process of true understanding, healing and setting you free.

If there is no healthy pathway of communication set up early on, between the parent and the child, then the child will generally hold to a defense, as a way to protect and simultaneously stay connected with the parent which is something akin to staying connected to the love. For example, if the child repeatedly selects, albeit unconsciously, anger as a response to the parent’s crazy behavior. The child may hold to anger in many interactions with the parent and possibly with others. Anger then can become a way to self protect while simultaneously holding to the love. In these cases, anger is the love. Or if skepticism and mistrust is the unconscious defense then doubt will rise as a way to self protect from the feeling of the perceived disconnection. The skepticism and mistrust will replace actual connection and feel like the way to stay connected. Ultimately, mistrust, will appear unconsciously like the love.

One thing that is helpful in the healing process is to remember that parents are people too. What I mean by this is that a parent doesn’t only exist as your parent, he/she is also a human being, who is struggling to live, love, understand life, earn a living, and grow himself/herself like you. It’s your own healthy adulthood that can recognize this. Reminding yourself of this simple fact can be very helpful in the face of failed expectations.

If possible, set aside a time to talk with the parent to share the ways in which you feel he/she has created confusion for you. A healthy parent, being a healthy adult, will know that it isn’t always possible (with all of the many responsibilities that life demands) to be there for his/her kids. When confronted, the healthy parent will hear you out and may respond with light defensiveness, but will eventually arrive at some variation of genuine listening and acknowledging his/her participation in the disjuncture. For example, he/she may say something like, “Well this is really hard to hear. I hope you remember more of the good that I tried to do, but you are right, in that instance, I didn’t do right or I failed at that one and I am genuinely sorry.” He/she may inquire if there is anything now that he/she can do to heal the relationship. If this genuine apology is forthcoming along with a desire to rectify, you’ll want to do some soul searching yourself. In other words, try to do your part, which is to truly forgive that mistake and to move forward, based on your capacity and the capacity of your parent.

If you bring your thoughts up with an unhealthy parent, he/she will have a very hard time listening to what is being said and in some cases, may not be capable of listening or having any dialog at all. The unhealthy parent may deny the experience or the losses ever happened, or may not be able to even recall what you are talking about. Your attempt at a discussion may also confuse the unhealthy parent. If this is the case, try not to throw the towel in. Instead, try to think of it as ‘its not ok, but it really is ok, as it is.’ Think of his/her response as an unconscious strategy that this parent learned in order to cope with difficulties. This can anger or sadden you, but a parent’s conscious acceptance and participation is not your only option for healing.

Your healing comes from you and your own understanding, your own capacity for separation, connection and re-valuation of yourself.

I want to diverge and clarify, I’m not saying that if a parent doesn’t agree with you completely then he/she is unhealthy. I’m saying that a healthy parent has the capacity to listen, to truly support a dialog, to perhaps disagree or agree, but to genuinely want real emotional intimacy and closeness through the ability to share and discuss not ad nauseam, but through some dialog. And it should be noted that a healthy adult child will also seek to create this kind of dialog, as well.

It’s all about healing in this life. Help yourself make that a priority.

It’s also helpful to remember that, people do the best they can with what they understand. Sigh. Yep. Sometimes what you see is the best that a person can do. The year my mother was dying, she told me many wise things. One important thing she said was, “Darling, you have to work within people’s limits.” At the time, I thought, “I have to work within people’s limits? What the heck does that mean? No, let them be unlimited.” But she was pointing out a misunderstanding I was growing through at the time, which has resolved for me now. It’s not our job to push or demand growth. Nature and god have a timing to the unfoldment of evolution. Be open, be supportive, but don’t push it. Accept that each of us is expanding at different rates, at different times. And its best not to assume that the capacity that you have is the same for everyone. Try to see and work within what is possible. This will help all of your relationships.

So if this concept of having a difficult or unhealthy parent speaks to you. If you have a parent that baffles you and you often feel at a loss about what to think or do in the face of the relationship past or present such that you’ve just shut down around it all or have gone numb as a solution to the mix of conflicting feelings you experience, consider what I’ve shared throughout this post and if you feel to, work with this Luminous Soul Crazy Parent Exercise.

Luminous Soul Crazy Parent Exercise:

Note: Do this exercise only if it feels right to connect with this parent. If it doesn’t feel right, then simply sit with what I have shared above and see what wisdom rises.

  1. Acknowledge what happened for you in your experience and recognize the losses that come with it.
  2. Try to communicate, as your adult self, recognizing that the parent is a person with flaws and confusions. (*If your, unhealthy parent is passed out of form write a letter expressing your experience and feelings.)
  3. Be aware that it will serve you to work within a person’s limits. In other words, listen and feel what is your capacity and the capacity of the parent at that moment.
  4. Be a person who can experience your own separation and in this capacity you will discover your adult capacity to merge in love much more.|
    Ironically, its when we allow ourselves to experience our separation in a healthy way that we are able to return to love in a new more compassionate and whole way.


Copyright 2017 Luminous Shabda Inc., Manorama

Blog Photo by Anthony Delanoix