TikTok comments are fun.
Often, I receive comments from people who relate to my content, grateful for the validation it brings to their experience. Every now and then, I receive criticism. One critical comment really stood out to me this morning, and I would like to reflect on the message it conveys.
“What I was put through growing up didn’t define me. That’s because I dealt with emotions and forgave rather than just blame them on how I turned out.”Someone straddling the Boomer/Gen Z borders on TikTok
I really do believe there is a distinction between blaming someone for events that occur and holding them accountable for behavior, which precipitated or contributed to traumatic events. When a person undergoes therapy or the therapeutic process, they must hold their caretakers accountable for their role in identity formation and traumatic experience. There is no way around this accountability. Autonomy may only come through the process of explicating the past.
We are always constructed by our experience. Neurology plays a role, but conditioning and training make or break the outcome. Whether we want to be or not, whether we are aware of it or not, we are always defined by the past. Again, this is why the psychoanalytic process of examining past trauma is so vital to recovery. When we re-examine our childhood years through the lens of adulthood, we glean insight and discern the relationship between past events and destructive patterns unfolding in the present.
It is absolutely essential that we hold our guardians and caretakers accountable for their complicity in our self-sabotage. A comprehensive investigation of past events frees our younger selves; too often we carry the burden of our own victimization into adulthood.
To hold our caretakers accountable is not to blame them for the past. On the contrary, to hold our caretakers responsible is to free ourselves from blame. Simultaneously, this reprieve from shame empowers us to embrace autonomy. This ushers in conviction, decisiveness, and transformation. Unfortunately, the only way to unshackle our bound younger selves is to acknowledge the neglect, the abuse, and the poor decisions of those who raised us.
Thus, our freedom comes at a cost. It shouldn’t, but it does. In an ideal world, those who abused us would accept responsibility for their role in our trauma. This is rare. Too often, we are forced to decide between freedom and relationships.
When called to account, abusers defend and destroy. We are forced to deny or reject the past for the preservation of those who hurt us worst. Thus, we must choose: pretend it didn’t happen in the name of “forgiveness” and maintain the dysfunctional dynamics of the relationship as it always existed or confront the abusers, establish boundaries, and risk severing ties with people we truly love. When abusers refuse to acknowledge their complicity, how does one proceed?
Is there middle ground?
I am trying to figure this out as I go.
If I could actually have a conversation with my parents–if I could actually share my feelings, this is what I would say:
I am not mad about how you raised me. I know you did the best you could. I know you didn’t realize you were hurting me. I understand the pain you carried into parenthood and carry still. You, too, can free your younger selves from blame and shame.
The mom and dad who hurt me exist in my mind as caricatures–as characters in a movie or play. I have forgiven them. However, I cannot pretend the past did not occur. It shaped me. It dwells in me and it will continue to for as long as I walk the earth. I want to be healthy. I want to develop healthy relationships with my own children. Thus, I will examine the past in order to learn from it–in order to develop and mature.
Finally, I will not stand down from my mission to validate the experiences of others. I will not cease intervening for others, as I wish someone had intervened for me. Your feelings, Mom and Dad, are valid. However, I won’t stop producing my content and fighting for the broken.