Does your parent make you feel like a child?
I remember very clearly one session during my training years ago. Our tutor was speaking to us about the power of the parent. You know – when you’re an adult but your parent still makes you feel like a child?
My tutor cited the example of a high court judge. A powerful, determined, intelligent man. A man that knew his own views and knew his rights. He could command a room. He could make decisions that would have a lasting impact on others. This judge was bold and he was confident. He was smart and he was imposing.
Until his 77 year old mother walked into the room that was.
This man would revert to a terrified almost whimpering 8 year old in the presence of his mother.
Let’s look at this. He’d been brought up in a strict environment. There was no love, no affection and compliance was expected from him and his brother. So. No love, no affection, high expectations. Mother is in charge. Of course! As a child, mother has to be in charge. Her parenting skills may be a bit of a challenge but, we cannot change it, so we have to do the best we can.
This man had no choice but to please his mother as a child. It’s how he survived, how he avoided corporal punishment.
But what about when this man turned into an adult? This mother didn’t stop treating him like a child. And this man couldn’t find a way to stand up to her. Because she’d have made him feel like a naughty child again. So he continued to defer to his mother. He had no voice when she was around.
This situation is commonplace. It plays out many times in my clients’ lives. As a result, they often feel angry, embittered and disempowered.
When we are adults, we should take responsibility for ourselves as adults. Sometimes this means finding our voices and recognising when other adults (including parents) are treating us as something other than equals. We have a responsibility to ourselves to address this.
Some people don’t like the change of status – especially parents! But healthy adult relationships are based in mutual support, reciprocity and fairness.
If you recognise interactions in which you are not feeling like an adult, think about how you might change the dynamic. If you are an adult, don’t act like a child! Think about trying to change your own role in this.
See more about how ‘ego states’ play out in our other relationships (Transactional Analysis or TA)