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Health & Balance

The "Food-Family Connection": Letting Go at Last

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2) I found within myself true loving feelings for my family, particularly for my mother and father, both now deceased. Most surprising was coming to love my mother, a beautiful and funny woman who apparently found it unnerving to have a bright, intuitive, and often rebellious child around. What did I see, or sense, that she didn't want others to know about? I don't know (although previously, in my role as "victim of the family," I thought I did). And it no longer matters. What matters is that almost certainly her harsh and unrelenting criticism of me was really directed at herself, not at me, a child who wasn't old enough to have done anyone any harm. Long before, her own family had unwittingly put that self-criticism into her head, and heart.

I understand now that my mother and father came to having children burdened with their own pain of unmet childhood needs -- and they lived in a time when professional help wasn't readily available as it is today. And so they passed their burdens along to me.

I also realize that as a mother, I burdened my own two daughters in similar ways. They're grown now, raising their own children -- my grandchildren. But by "giving back" my own emotional burden, and in the process becoming a more real and loving person, I'm very hopeful that their lives and relationships with their children will be stronger as well.

What do I mean by "giving back"? In therapy, I gave back the pain and defensiveness my parents passed along to me. I said, "I don't want this anymore. It was there when I needed it, along with food and my fat, when I couldn't see other ways of dealing with my life. Now I have the opportunity to understand it, thank it for being there when I needed it, and let it go, with love."

Here's something I wrote when I first began to stop holding my family responsible for who I became as an adult:

"Mother, I understand now, and I love you so much. I'm so sorry for the pain and fear that hurt you and shaped your whole life while you were still so young. And I celebrate your real qualities: love, giving, warmth, humor, that were there within you all along and that you passed on to me. I welcome them into my life and consider them your gifts to me. The false, manipulative, defensive qualities you and others before you passed on to me, I GIVE BACK -- not to you, for you endured enough, but to the Higher Power who set us on this path. He will know what to do with them.

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