I'm sorry to do this, but here's the truth: whenever a new patient arrives to my office and begins the session by saying that they had a "normal" childhood, or that a parent was their "best friend," or some such idealization, I know it's going to be a bit of a row to hoe. It's not that the purpose of therapy is to trash your parents, or to blame them for all of your dysfunctions, but I've been waiting for over 30 years to meet someone, in or out of therapy, who had a "normal" childhood. What most people mean by "normal," is "typical." But the fact that the majority of families are riddled with disorder, does not mean it's normal.
There's a new memoir out called, "COMING CLEAN," written by Kimberly Rae Miller, about growing up in a "hoarder household." I have a great deal of compassion for Kimberly, and appreciate her courage in revealing the details of her childhood trauma, but as a practitioner who has worked with adult children of OCD parents, I have to set the record straight because denial is one of the main defenses that slows down the healing process in therapy. Again, while it's not useful to denigrate or slander our parents, it is necessary to one's self-actualization to acknowledge the wounds suffered at the hands of our primary caretakers, and to release the rage and sorrow those injuries caused us to suppress and stockpile in our emotional and physical bodies.
Here's an excerpt from Kimberly's book:
"In many ways, I had a really normal childhood. I had parents who were there for everything—every soccer game, every dance recital. My parents wanted me, and I always felt that."
"The hard thing was in knowing my normal was really, really abnormal for the rest of the world. I always felt this compulsive need to hide who I really was from the rest of the world. So no one would ever see my house or see our car because there were things in our car. I was incredibly shy as a child because I just didn’t want to be noticed. I didn’t want to bring attention to me or the way we lived."
I am not just nitpicking semantics here, folks. How we talk to ourselves about our our experiences, and the words we use in our inner lives, act as hypnotic suggestions that then create the reality we live out. In order to say "I had a normal childhood," while simultaneously saying "I wanted to be invisible to the world" because of a parent's disorder, requires the offspring in this situation to split themselves internally in order to hold the contradiction in their consciousness.
"Splitting," a compartmentalization of opposite and conflicting affect states, is a defense mechanism in which a person, when faced with emotional stress or conflict, views himself or others as all good or all bad, or alternates between idealizing and devaluing the self or another; positive and negative qualities in the self or others are unable to be integrated into cohesive images. This splitting causes many difficulties in every area of life.
Folks, if you face the genuine slings and arrows of your childhoods, you will not end up hating your parents... or yourself. You will arrive to a natural compassion for them and an organic forgiveness. But if you cover up and confuse yourself, it will be for no one's sake. It will be to the detriment of your health and well-being, and equally, it won't benefit your parents or anyone else either.
The truth will always set you free.