Understanding Why the People in Your Family Are as they Are

Taking time to understand your family is part of the healing process. As we get to know our parents, for most of us there are parts that we love and respect and parts that drive us crazy. If you have grown up clashing with your parents over and over again, feeling mystified by their world views and ways of being in the world, it can be incredibly helpful to take some time to reflect on where your parents came from. 

If, for example, your parents grew up in another country in a different culture, think about what it might have been like for them to arrive in Australia, or wherever they arrived. Could they speak the language? What must they have thought about the culture? What culture shock might they have had? Would they have felt safe financially, mentally and emotionally?

If your parents grew up in poverty, what lasting effects of that poverty can you see in their behaviour today? Are they afraid to spend money? Are they always trying to save? This would make sense if they grew up in poverty. Part of their psyche is still in fear of not having enough money to survive. I know that this can makes no sense if they are now living a life with access to plenty. Remember this is part of your parent’s trauma. 

My grandmother worked in the soup kitchen in our town for about 15 years. Every day the same man would be at the front of the line. Always, he couldn’t bear to be anywhere else, but at the front. He had been a prisoner of war in World War Two. She imagined that there had been little food and that he might have experienced periods of extreme hunger. Part of him remembered that hunger and need for food and it drove him to the front of the line, even in a time of plenty.

What traumas might your parents have experienced? How have these traumas shaped the people they are today? 

This kind of compassionate enquiry can help you to understand your parents more fully. It might allow you to be a little more compassionate and accepting of who they are.