I remember years ago, the moment in therapy that marked the beginning of healing the relationship with my mom. I had described to my therapist how in a visit with my mom, I felt tired and lethargic and everything took extra effort.
My therapist suggested that I was putting off meeting my needs and hoping that she would finally come through and be the mom I wanted her to be.
In that moment, I got how it was time to let go of my mom being some certain way. It was time to start relating to her as another adult rather than just my mom.
In NVC terms, I was attached to a particular strategy for meeting my needs. I was attached to her meeting all my needs for safety, affection, love, and nurturing. I wanted her to process all the unmet needs and difficulties of my childhood with me and then make up for these unmet needs with new behavior.
This was my unconscious strategy for healing. It wasn't very effective.
One of the things I love about NVC is that it asks for and helps create a deep level of self-reflection and self-responsibility.
Parts of me, very young parts, were still waiting for my mom to meet those needs. Seeing this I could mentally and emotionally go back to visit with various "younger selves" and offer empathy for the pain, loneliness, and fear they experienced. I could reassure them that the me of today can take care of those needs with the loving and reliable people I have in my life now. The me of today can create experiences in which needs for safety, affection, love, and nurturing are met easily.
When I have this healing relationship with myself and others who can currently meet my needs, I don't have to wait for my mom to change. As a result, there is a space in me to accept my mom just as she is. There is space to offer her empathy and understanding. There is space to express my needs and requests in simple and non-reactive terms.
Resentment, anger, or the kind of listlessness I experienced, are all good signs that you might be holding fast to one particular strategy to meet your needs, particularly, one that isn't working.
Reflect on your relationships with your family. Is there someone your waiting on to change? Do you want them to recount what they did that stimulated pain for you, own what they did, express regret, and ask how they can help you heal from it? Sometimes family members will hear this request and meet you there. Sometimes they won't.
When they won't, you can look for other strategies for healing. You can heal the hurts from those relationships in how you relate to yourself and with others in your life, friends, counselors, teachers, pasteurs, and community members, who can meet you you there. The healing work you do is always a contribution to your family, whether you process the past with them or not.
Take a moment now to name for yourself the people in your life that are a contribution to you. How have they contributed to your healing and well-being? What action do you want to take on your side to nurture and maintain those relationships?