The second part of resiliency (we covered emotional regulation yesterday) is healthy, supportive relationships that allow us to internalize the message, “I am Lovable.” But what is it to feel loved? It’s not enough to hear, “I love you.” In fact in dysfunctional families the declaration of “I love you” can be used as an excuse: “I love you, therefore my behavior towards you is loving” whatever that behavior looks like. So what is love in action?
In the book How to Overcome Your Childhood, the authors argue that a loving childhood is a “privileged childhood.” A privileged childhood is one in which parents:
- can “enter imaginatively into the child’s world”;
- can “put their own needs aside for a time to focus … on the confusions and fears of their offspring”;
- can hear what a child “manages to say … [and] what they might be aspiring … to explain”;
- are loyal “simply on the basis that we exist”;
- “are sufficiently mature to let us grow up slowly”;
- are “ordinary and a little boring … know how to let themselves be superseded.”
Note, that first bullet point? It doesn’t mean you get down on the floor to play Legos all of the time. It means you are able to empathize with your child’s experience.
When you look at this list it may be a reminder of what you didn’t have. It may bring up feelings of grief and even jealousy.
(It’s the dirty little secret of the adult child of dysfunction; sometimes our grief feels like envy even of our own kids. Sometimes we struggle because our kids don’t know how good they have it, forgetting that it’s the right of a child to take safety, love, and acceptance for granted.)
We need loving, supportive, healing communities when we’re interrupting patterns of family dysfunction. We need spaces where we can talk about all of the dirty little secrets, all of the fears and worries, and where we can be encouraged to grow instead of being assured that it’s fine, we’re fine, this status quo is fine. Finding people who are also committed to self-growth and understanding and who will lovingly hold us accountable is important. This is tough work and finding those relationships is a big part of what helps us build our own resiliency.
This is why the You Are Not Your Mother membership is centered around a community support group; there’s no need to do this difficult work alone.