One of the struggles that I often see with clients is a reluctance to blame their parents for the mistakes they made during the client's childhood. Sometimes, even if it's obvious to both of us that their parents really caused a lot of damage; the desire to protect and defend them can be fierce.
If anyone else treated us badly, we may be able to call it what it is. But, there is a defense mechanism that kicks in with our parents. Why? Because when we were young, they were everything to us. And we took on their problems as being about us. We resist feeling the pain and loss that comes from seeing their failures.
As we grow apart from them into adulthood, we start to navigate a complicated change in awareness about our parents. We see some of their flaws more clearly. But, we also see ourselves make mistakes and hurt others. We understand that each of us is a human who accidentally screws up. So, anything that they did or didn't provide is understandable. They are human too.
And of course, this is correct. They are human. Maybe they made some mistakes like: not paying attention when we needed them sometimes, using ineffective communication and discipline, or not knowing how to have a healthy intimate relationship. Or, maybe they made more overt mistakes like raging, beating, or sexually assaulting us or members of our family. Those are all within the range of the human condition.
But, when it comes to healing from our childhood and fully becoming a thriving adult, we actually need to do something more than understand their humanness.
We need to make the space for our 'child experience'. In order to do that, we need to learn how to hold space for both truths. 1. They are human and forgivably so. 2. They were parents to a small child and as such had massive power. Their mistakes had an impact on that child. And that child needs a voice in order to heal. And that voice must recognize the power imbalance in order to be honest: the child is always the victim during childhood.
So, in therapy, it's possible to create a space where the child 'you' speaks to the true experience of powerlessness and the harm your parents caused. And the adult 'you' can also know that this human being parent did what they did within their own limitations. It doesn't have to be one or the other.
Through opening up and accepting this duality, we can allow the child to have its needs tended to now: to heal.