We were sitting on the steps of the hall which faced the river Ganga. As we watched her turquoise blue waters having piping hot tea that winter morning, the 75-year-old Vedanta student, Mala was crying bitterly. In between her heaving sobs, she said – I always felt that there was something wrong with me. My mother never appreciated me. The rest of the family and even our friends would praise my singing. But my mother would barely smile. She would just be busy preparing our favourite dishes. I longed for her to say something. But that day never came. This seventy five year old woman and a grandmother to boot had now transformed into the little one, unfulfilled in her relationship with her mother who was long gone.
Mala is not alone in feeling unloved and unsupported. Perhaps her mother loved her in ways that only she could but it was not enough for Mala.
One of the important journeys we have to complete in this lifetime is to be at peace in our relationship with parents. This frees us to relate to our own partner, children and work colleagues in mature, loving ways. If we have not reached some peace with our parents, the same incomplete and unfinished business with our parents will play out with our partner, children, our bosses and even our gurus.
Perhaps the main gift and blessing that our parents can give us is the conviction that we matter.
That we are lovable and acceptable.
That we have the education and skills to navigate our lives.
Given the unique set of karma criss crossing our lives, some of us may have received this blessing from our parents. And, what about many of us who have been unloved and unsupported? There are three areas that require our attention and action.
Understanding and using the five expressions of love – Gary Chapman offered a nice framework of what he called our five love languages. These are A. Words of appreciation. B. Caring practical actions. C. Quality time, D. Physical touch, E. Presence of the other person
Since we have our preferred modalities if love is not expressed in a particular way, we sulk and conclude that the other person does not love us.
Mala felt loved primarily when she heard words of appreciation. But her mother‘s way of expressing love was through practical actions – cooking different kinds of delicious meals for the family. Mala was not able to see that her mother loved her in the way that only she could and wrongly concluded that her mother did not care.
Our ways of expressing love for another are shaped by our childhood influences and own preferences. Another woman I know would hear a lot of loving words from her father who lived overseas but not enough practical actions. To compensate for the father‘s absence, she grew to be independent and capable of handling family finances as a teenager along with her mother.
Clear thinking and peace of mind requires us to identify what is our preferred mode of expression and to see what was our parents mode of expression of love. If these matched, great. If they did not match then one sees that they did what they could. Their intentions were fine but their expression did not match our expectation.
Parenting the little one: The little one which is the little you in childhood – the one who felt frightened, helpless and not accepted has frozen in time. The little one is also playful, spontaneous, creative and has a lot of fun. But the little one has frozen in time because he or she did not feel safe and needs love, acceptance and support.
We look all over trying to find that one person who will love us unconditionally but sadly find ourselves and the other conditional.
But the little one needs to be reparented. So here is a practical exercise –
Take all the loving sentences and appreciation that you have received so far in life and add some more and write your loving dialogue to the little one.
Tell him or her – I, the adult am sorry that you had to go through such a difficult time. I feel bad that there was no one to protect you, nurture you like you wanted. While the past cannot be changed, you will never be in that situation again. You are lovable. You are worthy of love, acceptance and respect. You are pervaded by Bhagavan. I love you. I have not given you enough reason to trust me. But know that I will not allow you to feel lonely ever again. I am always there for you.
Try variations of this dialogue and talk and listen to the little one. There is much healing that takes place as a result of this.
Seeing the laws of karma Perhaps when we stop looking upto our parents as little children and see them as one adult to another, we can objectively see the influences that shaped their life. It is likely that they too grew up with struggle and even abuse. Yet one of you says that – but that does not excuse what they did to me. You are probably right. We want justice to be done. But either our parents are dead and gone or are too old that one does not want to bring up past issues or maybe we have grown enough to relate to them as adults or maybe it is time to share all that has been bottled up. We can share our grief now and also hear their grief and helplessness as a parent. Or in some rare cases it is best that we stay away and do our duty towards them in terms of finances and medical care, from a distance. The question we must ask ourselves is – will we regret any of our behaviour when they are dead and gone?