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On Parents, Power, and Vulnerability

It both amazes and saddens me when clients who’ve been living successfully on their own for decades confide that they still feel vulnerable and powerless around their parents. Mind you, most of these clients are middle-aged and often parents themselves, and reside in states, countries or even continents that are far away from their aging parents. Yet many of them are still “battling” with their parents over who is in charge of them. I tell them the truth: that though they may feel vulnerable and powerless, they are not. They have won not only the battle to take charge of themselves, but the entire war.

Moreover, we don’t have to do anything super-human to win this tug of war. Fact is, once we reach our late teens or early twenties, we’re quite capable of being self-reliant. Parents may treat us and we may act as if we’re not, but biologically we are. This battle of independence is won, not by pushing against and pulling away from parents, but is automatically ours via the course of nature. When we have the ability to fend for and feed and take care of ourselves, we are basically independent from the people who raised us. So if you’re an adult, you have cause for celebration: you are independent. You have control over your life and are no longer dependent on Mom and Dad.

But, I hear some of you insisting, I need to live at home, I need their financial support, I need their guidance. You may believe this to be true, but what I’m saying is that nature has given you the ability to be independent from parents by virtue of the maturity of your body and capacity of your brain. They can tell you not to ride a motorcycle, but they can no longer stop you from purchasing one, getting on it, and zooming off into the sunset. They can demand that you cease seeing your girlfriend or boyfriend whom they don’t care for, but there’s nothing they can actually do to enforce their demand.

When you were a child you were vulnerable to parental wishes and whims because you lacked the biological power to care for yourself. You needed and were dependent upon your parents. You are no longer vulnerable because you are no longer dependent. Your battle to think for yourself and do what you want was won at the age of majority. If you don’t think so, that’s a mistaken perception. It’s time to give up the fight because you’ve beaten them hands down. Go plant a flag of triumph in your garden, sing a victory song, so a Snoopy dance. Whenever you powerless around your parents, remind yourself that you’re remembering how you used to feel when you were a child and that reality is another story. When you feel powerless, look in the mirror. You will see a full grown adult who can live and thrive without his or her parents just fine, thank you very much.

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