Learnings from the Systemic Field – I fear my parents
In my coaching, I have the privilege of bearing witness to people’s innermost wounds.
The wounds that control us.
We are not consciously aware of the wounds that are entangled within the systems within which we live. One of the pearls of wisdom or the learnings that I’ve gathered here is the Love A Child has for their parent.
So, recently I was coaching a woman in her mid-thirties who came to me because she experienced severe trauma in her parental home as a child.
She struggled to make sense of the scenes she witnessed as a child when they erupted in their altercations with each other.
She now still struggled to see either of her parents in a positive light.
The family setting is that the father, a prominent businessman, is, in her perception, a man to be feared in the home environment due to severe mood swings. The mother did her utmost to protect her children from his outbursts. My client is angry that the mother firstly allowed these outbursts and secondly stayed in the marriage.
Furthermore, she struggled with the fact that her father could see no wrong in his behavior. He provided well for his family, and he bought them all the luxuries they wished.
So from the outside, this family looks normal. Children went to good private schools, drove expensive cars, and lived in luxury. What happens behind those walls is not always told. It’s not always seen, and nobody outside of the family is aware of the emotional difficulties the family experiences.
And so the children witness the parent’s rows, fights, and difficulties with each other.
What can a child do?
Where does the child go when the parents are unhappy with each other? The child does not feel safe. The child feels helpless when the parents fight with each other.
We cannot always be the loving parents, the loving partners that we want to be. But when so much hurt is thrown around between parents, the child feels extremely unsafe, helpless traumatized.
In this case, my client felt traumatized. She felt unsafe. And even as an adult woman in her 30s, she still feared her parents, especially her father. She goes into stress when her mother phones her. Her first thoughts are: “What has happened now?’
She was drawn into the drama of her parents. And she didn’t know how to get out of it.
So with the help of setting up a family constellation, she could see and experience what the child experienced. She started to understand. She loved each parent individually. She wanted to be acknowledged and recognized by her father for the woman she now is, but more importantly, the little girl in her wanted to feel her father’s love.
Often we are so in our head. We have certain expectations of what love looks like that we’re not aware that the father did love his child or his children. He did love his mother or his wife. His expression of love was not the textbook, love. He had a different expression of love. He provided well for his family. The child wanted another father. Chances are, the mother wished to have another husband.
Yes, his wounds, vows, and belief systems played out in the family drama. And so, when we look at these wounds that arose in his early childhood, and we add them to the injuries of the mother that occurred in her early childhood, we get a different picture. The minor child cannot understand that this drama displayed between the parents is from early childhood wounds because of the child itself. She was experiencing new injuries. Her damages occurred in this trauma, in this explosion of words between parents.
So when my client recognized that both parents loved her, something in her shifted. The trauma lifted.
But she also learned to step away from the parent’s drama, step away from the parent’s wounds, and allow herself to be a child who has the right to do the right to love from each parent individually.
It took my client quite a while to pluck up the courage and claim love from her father and mother separately. She was so scared of losing either parent if she did it. She said: “Sonja if I do what you asked me to do. I will lose my parents.” That was her biggest fear.
She didn’t trust that her parents love it if she started a new behavior pattern. So,
after a few weeks of encouragement, she eventually stepped forward and had her talk with the father not as “I’m scared of you. You are always angry with me”.
The chat she had with her father was: “I want you in my life. I need you.” She did the same with her mother. I want you in my life. I need you not as your support but as your daughter. I want to be the little girl.
Interestingly, the parents individually changed in the relationship with their daughter.
I would not have been able to help my client if it were not for my ability to facilitate a Family Constellation. It is transformational in parent-child relationships that are difficult and often complicated. I love it when I have a good outcome for my client. And I love it even more if it is not only my client who benefits but the people she loves benefit too.