ALCOHOLIC PARENT

QUESTION:

With the Vedic psychology tools that you have introduced I am trying to work on my old samskaras, but I still have many old unprocessed emotions that are bothering me:

My alcoholic father tyrannized everyone in the family. Everything had to run according to his ideas and under his command, which caused great fear in me. He forced me to eat meat until the plate was empty, sometimes resulting in me sitting in the kitchen for hours. I used to think that if I eat the meat then I will get my father’s love. But I did not get his love. Instead, I was forced to listen to his whole barrage of verbal abuse. I felt angry and helpless because I was not able to get out of this situation. I have spent my life in accordance with my mother’s statements that, “One must adapt to others, in order to be loved.”  How can I handle my unprocessed emotions better?
ANSWER:

Being the child of an alcoholic parent is not an easy path as you are not given the space to learn about, acknowledge and process your own emotions. Emotions are so powerful. They drive your thoughts and behaviors, so it is very important to know your emotions and how to work with them. Your emotions could end up propelling you to get a Phd from Harvard or to being a homeless person living on the street. When you grow up with a parent who is an alcoholic, they love the alcohol more than you. Even if an alcoholic parent does not verbally or physically abuse you, because they are paying more attention to alcohol than you, they are neglecting you emotionally.

Actually, if the parent is a workaholic, this too creates the same effect on the child as that of an alcoholic parent. More specifically, it creates a very painful childhood because you learn that your father’s feelings are supreme and your feelings do not matter. In fact, if you express your feelings to your father, either you are ignored or he becomes angry. His feelings are unpredictable and scary. So you get the message that you should pay attention to his feelings and ignore your own. And over time you don’t even know your own feelings any longer, because you become so focused on his. Your whole personality develops as a way to get his love – you will do anything to get his love, since it is so scarce because 99% of his love is going to the alcohol. 

So, eating meat, listening to his verbal abuse, forgetting about your own needs and feelings – all of these are ways in which we forget about our self in order to hopefully get just a tiny bit of his love. The samskara that gets created is exactly what your mother said, “I must adapt to others in order to be loved.” The way this plays out as an adult is that you will continually get into relationships that are co-dependent.  Codependency is when your emotional wellbeing is dependent on another person’s feelings. You will ignore your own thoughts, feelings, needs in order to make your friend or partner happy, even if it is hurting you.

Your samskara is like a program driving you to behave in this way because you did so for so many years in relation with your father. In fact, when people ask you what you want, or how you feel, or what you think, you will feel uncomfortable because you were never asked these questions as a child. It was always about what dad feels. You have ignored yourself for so long now that you don’t even know how to answer these questions about your own self. 

However, you are expert at answering these questions about the others whom you are in close relation with. If you have a partner, you will know in detail about their feelings, even a particular kind of face they make when they are about to get angry. You will know exactly what they like, and even if you hate it, or it  hurts you, you will continue to do it anyway because that is what they like. You will know what they want and you will even hurt yourself financially or in other ways to give them what they want. 

This all might seem good in one way, like qualities of a good devotee. However, there is one key difference between a good devotee and a co-dependent person. A good devotee is in a different state of mind – he or she is in a high state of love where they know their needs and feelings, but they have forgotten them because they have become absorbed in love for Sri Krishna. But they surely know their selves. They are not hurting themselves because they feel empty and are looking for a drop of love. The child of an alcoholic may seem devoted to their partner, but they are really not. They are actually just selfishly, desperately searching for that love that their father never gave them.

PRACTICAL EXERCISE:

  1. Write a letter to your father, telling him about your feelings of having to deal with his verbal abuse and emotional neglect when you were a child. It is okay to write exactly how you felt, especially expressing the anger. Do not write how you feel now, write how you felt as a child in the painful moments. Anger is difficult to express and often times you will feel guilty or scared to express it, but it is important to let it out. This letter is just for you to get it out of your system, not for your father to read.
  2. Read the letter aloud to a picture of your father. Bring in his energy before reading the letter. Really imagine he is sitting there across from you and then read the letter to him. Read it with emotion. Let your emotions come out. You may need to read it more than once to feel it.
  3. Imagine Sri Krishna’s response. Not your father’s response. But Krishna’s response to hearing your letter. Try to connect to Krishna’s loving, kind, ever-present energy. What would he say to you to comfort you? 
  4. Write down Krishna’s response and keep it with you. Read Krishna’s response each morning as part of your morning routine to stay connected to his divine unconditional love.
  5. Research the concept of co-dependence and purchase a book on it to educate yourself on the behaviors that you are currently doing that are unhealthy. Try to become aware of your co-dependent behaviors so you can start changing them.
  6. When you notice that you are acting on this samskara of, “I must adapt to others in order to be loved,” then use your intelligence to stop yourself from acting in this way. Act in a new, healthy way in which you acknowledge and honor your emotions. You can learn about how to do this in the co-dependent book.

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