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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

There seems to be a theme running through a lot of your discussions which throws a lot of weight on what the parents did wrong during a person’s formative and developmental years to cause his/her grown up illnesses, psychological states, issues, behaviors, shticks, personalities, what have you…..You know this better than I but to cite but one example: “Your own inner pain must be understood through the psychotherapy, not hidden away with flashy slight-of-hand. In essence, it will be necessary to learn to treat yourself with the honest, gentle, and compassionate true love that your parents never gave to you.”

Is it always what a parent did wrong that informs a person’s makeup?

Indeed, I have a wonderful [age deleted for confidentiality] son who is very close to me but still finding himself and dealing with issues of life choices; after growing up in a terribly dysfunctional home in which his mother/my wife (ex) had so many problems that I was unable to cope with and which in turn led to instability, chaos, and a 10 year “war of the roses” divorce; so I know of from “parents doing wrong.”

But why the seeming assumption throughout your discussions that this is a given to every person’s problems?

Outline of the Answer
• Introduction
• Trauma Kept Secret
• Getting to the Problem
• Parental Love
• The Possibility of Real Love
• The Rarity of Real Love
• Giving of Yourself Genuinely

 
Ies, what I say about a person’s psychological problems deriving from parental failures in childhood is true for everyone. A fundamental axiom of psychology is that whenever children have psychological/behavioral problems, look to the parents for the cause of the problems. Children intuitively understand the truth of this; parents, understandably so, shudder at it.

 
Trauma Kept Secret

The sad truth is that many parents have experienced child abuse as children—or have experienced other traumas in the past—but have not sought healing; instead, they have hidden their emotional pain and have tried to keep it secret. Nevertheless, because of unconscious anger, they will inflict trauma on their children. The children’s lives will be disturbed by the hidden pain of the parents, but because it’s all unconscious the children will not be able to articulate it. The children may be plagued by terrifying dreams; they may become depressed or anxious, argumentative, disobedient, or self-destructive; and they may abuse alcohol, use drugs, or engage in criminal activity. It’s psychologically inevitable—until someone says, “Enough. This has to stop.”

And how will it stop? Well, either the parents will go into psychotherapy or the children will go into psychotherapy, but either way, if the truth of the parents’ emotional pain is brought out into the open, the children will finally realize that the torment was real and that they weren’t crazy for feeling so disturbed all their lives.

 
Getting to the Problem

Nevertheless, I sympathize with you, because both you and your son have had to cope with considerable emotional turmoil over the years. From what you describe, it’s clear that the dysfunctional home of your son’s formative years will be an on-going influence on him.

But that isn’t the whole story, is it? In trying to understand what has happened and what its consequences will be, we need to consider any positive influences in your son’s environment. You haven’t said it directly, but it could be asked, “What about anything you have done that has been helpful to your son? What influence did that have on him, and what influence will that have on his future?”

To begin to answer these questions, let’s ask another question that points back to what you quoted from my own writing: What exactly does it mean for a parent to love a child?

 
Parental Love

So, “What exactly does it mean for a parent to love a child?” From my clinical experience, I have learned that most parents do not know the true answer to this question. Most parents will say something like, “Well, I tried my best, so that means I loved my children.” This really amounts to more of a defense than an answer. The defense hides a truth, and the truth is not pretty, for the truth is that the parents failed to give their children everything the children really needed.

Nevertheless, “to love a child” does not mean simply to give the child every “thing” he or she needs. Why? Well, to give the child every “thing” he or she needs is impossible. No parent can do this, and it’s foolish to even think that it’s possible.

 
The Possibility of Real Love

Real love, though, is possible because real love is not about giving “things.” Real love for a child means that a parent is willing to go to any lengths—to do anything it takes—to be emotionally genuine with the child. That is not easy because it means that the parent must give everything of his or her own being.

  

For example, if, during a family crisis, a father were to take his son to a sporting event, the father would be implicitly saying, “This is how I hide my emotional pain behind illusions of grandeur and triumph.” In contrast, if the father were to take his son for a hike and were to talk about his current helplessness, acknowledging what the son needs from life and admitting that he cannot provide those things for the son right at the moment, and explaining how a dedication to acts of patience, kindness, and forgiveness will get them both through a difficult situation, the father would be offering a profound model of healthy coping skills.

  

 
The Rarity of Real Love

Therefore, notice that I said that real love is possible. Yes, it’s possible, but it’s also rare. It’s rare because most adults are too terrified to be emotionally genuine, and they are too terrified to look psychologically deep enough inside themselves to become emotionally genuine and to give of themselves honestly in real love. Why? Well, most adults have suffered the emotional pain of having parents who were not emotionally genuine. Most adults were not loved by their parents, and so they are terrified of loving their children. And so we come full circle: emotionally crippled children come from emotionally crippled parents.

  

Note that this does not mean that parents have to be perfect. We all make mistakes, but if parents are willing to admit their mistakes and learn from them and keep trying to do what is good for their children, then real love will be possible.

  

 
Giving of Yourself Genuinely

So, if you—the parent—want to know what good you have done for your children, look not to the “things” you did for them but to the way you gave of yourself genuinely to your children. If anything falls short, then resolve now to do anything it takes to remedy your failures of emotional genuineness: study this website like a textbook, learn about the psychology of the unconscious, scrutinize your inner motivations, overcome your fear of emotional honesty and humility, and seek out healing for your own childhood emotional wounds, even if you must enter psychotherapy. In short, be willing to do anything it takes to help your children, now, while you have the chance.

 

Who wrote this web page?

 


 
Recommended Reading
 
A treasure of a resource for psychological and spiritual healing. Information gathered from my websites (including this webpage) is now available at your fingertips in book form.

 

Falling Families, Fallen Children by Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D. Do our children see a mother and a father both living in contemplative love for God with a constant awareness of His presence and engaged in an all-out battle with the evil of the world? More often than not our children don’t see living faith. They don’t see protection from evil. They don’t see genuine, fruitful devotion. They don’t see genuine love for God. Instead, they see our external acts of devotion as meaningless because they see all the other things we do that contradict the true faith. Thus we lose credibility—and when parents lose credibility, children become cynical and angry and turn to the social world around them for identity and acceptance. They are children who have more concern for social approval than for loving God. They are fallen children. Let’s bring them back.

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Where Catholic therapy (Catholic psychotherapy) is explained according to Catholic psychology in the tradition of the Catholic mystics.