The importance of emotional safety in understanding ourselves
Friday nights as a teenager were often a dull affair. Sometimes I’d have a friend over to watch a movie. Other times I’d play video games or read on my own. If I was lucky, I might have even found myself at Tim Horton’s with a friend. The joyrides and house parties that characterized adolescence for many teens were rare for me.
On the odd occasion I did go out, I’d come home to my mom peering out through the blinds as I pulled my car into the driveway. She’d greet me as I came in and ask how my night was. If I responded in a chipper, upbeat tone, she’d be satisfied and saunter to bed. Otherwise, she’d interrogate me to figure out what was wrong and if I was hurt.
As this trend continued into my early 20s, I started to question her on why she’d stay up past midnight waiting for me—to which she’d respond, “I can’t sleep if I don’t know you’re safe.”
Most outsiders can probably see how stifling and anxious her behaviour was. They might even suggest that I should have been more defiant or assertive about my boundaries. But at the time, I felt like I was in the wrong for causing her to worry so much.
I’m a first-generation Canadian—raised by two European immigrants. And while my familial values have certainly played a role in my perception of my parents, I suspect my feelings are fairly common.
When we start going to therapy or focusing on self-growth, chances are that we’ll have to dig into our relationship with our parents in order to better understand why we are the way we are.
But if that’s true, why is it so difficult for some people to put their parents under the microscope? After all, questioning or reflecting on their past behaviour in the privacy of our own thoughts can’t hurt anyone.
Unconditional love vs. betrayal
It’s not uncommon to have an emotional blindspot when it comes to our parents. From an early age, we’re raised with the idea that we owe them unconditional love—so it’s easy to overlook their less desirable behaviours or even blame ourselves for any negative reactions we might incite. Even in extreme instances of…