How To Find Out What Our Childhood Was Really Like
Why It Is So Important To Know
Are we really willing to take a searching and Fearless inventory?...And If not...why not?
Knowledge gives freedom
We all need to look at our past...to really know what happened to us...we can't heal what we can't feel and we have to know what the real truth is about our past or we have little hope in changing the future.
Ironically, many Chosen Children discover that letting go of this misplaced sense of guilt for what went on in the family makes them feel anxious; it's a Catch-22. Once they place the responsibility where it really belongs-squarely in the lap of the parent-they may experience a surge of anxiety for having "bad thoughts" about the caretaker. Here's the internal logic: "If I was not responsible for being the Chosen Child, then my mother and father were to blame. It makes me feel anxious to see my parents in a negative light, however, because my unconscious mind assumes they are still responsible for my well-being. Even though I am 20 or 40 or even 70 years old and have outlived both my parents, I am still fearful of abandonment. It may be better to accept the guilt for what went wrong in my family than to blame my parents and stir up my anxiety."
Read through this outline and check the questions that seem most pertinent. Then write or verbalize your responses. Strive for maximum emotional expression
II. Early childhood (ages 1 to 5)
III. Later childhood (ages 5 to 11)
IV. Adolescence (ages 12 to 20)
V. Young adulthood (ages 21 to 30)
VI. How has your life been since young adulthood?
VII. Present day
EXERCISE 2: Family Interviews
If your parents are living, they may be able to provide much of this information. Since you will be asking them questions about their early history-not about their relationship with you-you may be surprised at how much they are willing to tell you.
You can either make a special date for the interview or weave your questions into an already scheduled visit. You be the judge. Do what feels right to you.
If your parents volunteer few insights, they may be unusually defensive or even denying what happened to them as children. Supplement what you are able to glean from them by talking with other relatives. It could be that others are more forthcoming. Following is a list of possible questions to ask your parents. Look through them for ones that seem most thought-provoking. Write down other questions that come to mind. Ask yourself: What do I really want to know about my parents?
Questions to Ask Parents:
1. What was it like growing up in your family?
2. Tell me about the house(s) (or apartment) in which you grew up.
3. Did you like where you lived?
4. What kind of child were you? (E.g., happy, outgoing, shy, curious, etc.)
5. What were the spoken and unspoken rules in your family?
6. Did you feel closest to your mother or your father?
7. What were your parents like?
8. Do you think your parents were happy?
9. What did your parents do for fun?
10. Do you think your parents enjoyed being parents?
11. What was the best part of your childhood?
12. What was the toughest part of your childhood?
13. What was the family atmosphere like?
14. Was one of your brothers or sisters especially close to one of your parents? How did that make you feel?
15. Was there any obvious favoritism in your family?
16. Was there one child who always seemed to be left out?
17. Was there one child that a parent was especially hard on?
18. Was there one child who was "spoiled" by a parent?
19. Was there one child who "could do no wrong"?
20. What were you like as a teenager?
21. Did your parents openly reveal their emotions?
22. What did you want to be when you grew up?
23. What attracted you to Mom? (Dad?)
24. What was it like the first years you were married?
25. What were the most difficult years of your marriage?
26. Did you have any traumas as a child?
27. Did you want your first child to be a boy or a girl?
28. How did your parents react to your marriage?
29. How did your parents react to your dating?
30. Do you think a parent relied on you for emotional support?
31. Were either of your parents violent or abusive?
32. How did they discipline you?
33. What was it like living through the Depression? (or World War I or II?)
34. Was money a problem when you were growing up?
"What do you remember most about my mother/father?"
"How did my mother/father get along with your parents?"
"Were you jealous of my parent or was my parent jealous of you?"
These discussions can be very revealing.
Childhood friends, cousins, and neighbors can also be good informants. You alone can determine which questions to ask and how to phrase them. You might feel comfortable asking Aunt Frances searching, personal questions, for example, but you'd instinctively steer clear of those areas with Aunt Ruth.
Questions to Ask Friends, Aunts and Uncles, Cousins, and Neighbors:
2. What were some of the major differences between your parents and mine?
3. Did you think either of my parents played favorites?
4. What do you remember about me as a child?
5. Was there anything that seemed odd or strange about my family?
6. What did you like about visiting my house?
7. What didn't you like about visiting my house?
8. How did my parents treat you?
9. How did my parents treat each other?
10. What do you remember about each of my brothers and sisters?
Siblings can be a storehouse of information about your family of origin. They went through many of the same experiences as you did, but with a different point of view. If you get along well with them, you've undoubtedly had many helpful conversations already. But if a difference in age, physical distance, or simple reticence has kept your interaction superficial, take this opportunity to ask more probing questions. (If you have a conflicted relationship with a brother or sister, skip this exercise. Questions to Ask Siblings:
1. What do you remember most about the house(s) (or apartments) in which we grew up?
2. Do you have recurring dreams about the family? If so, what are they?
3. Did you feel closer to Mom or to Dad?
4. Did you think either Mom or Dad played favorites? (This could be a sensitive area.)
5. What were the saddest times for you growing up in the family?
6. What were the happiest times for you?
7. What did you want from Mom and/or Dad that you never got?
8. What did you appreciate most about Mom and/or Dad?
9. If you could change something about our family, what would it be?
10. What do you think were the unspoken rules in our family?
11. Did Mom or Dad (or Step-dad or Step-mom, etc.) influence you the most?
12. Did you pattern yourself after either Mom or Dad?
13. Did you deliberately distance yourself from Mom or Dad?
14. Do you feel that you have traits like Mom or Dad? How do you feel about this?
15. Which of our brothers and/or sisters did you feel closest to?
16. Do you think our caretakers treated us fairly?
17. Do you remember ever being very angry at Mom or Dad?
18. Which event hurt you the most?
19. Which event made you the happiest?
"PATRICIA LOVE, Ed. D., is a marriage and family therapist in practice in Austin, Texas. A former clinical director in marriage and family therapy, Dr. Love is a licensed professional counselor, a clinical member and approved supervisor in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, and president of the International Association for Marriage and Family Counselors, as well as an active member of the American Association for Counseling and Development."
JO ROBINSON, is a writer from Portland Oregon, whose work appeared in magazines such as Redbook, Readers Digest, and McCalls. She is the coauthor of "getting The Love You Want: A guide for Couples and Unplug the Christmas Machine."
|"What we live with we learn,
and what we learn
we practice, and what we
practice, we become...
and what we become
AND almost always, I have
found, who we become
has little to do with who
we were meant to be.
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