Living with a brain injury can be difficult. Difficult for the individual who sustained the brain injury and for the parents of these individuals. Difficulty navigating life after their brain injury and difficulty for parents in their attempts to understand these changes.
Below I would like to share something, as an individual living with the impact of a brain injury. Living with the impact of a brain injury for nearly 53 years. What I share below may help both you as you navigate life living with the impact of a brain injury and your parents.
There is Hope
The beauty of living is that we can make a decision to change our behavior at any time. The process of behavior modification usually begins with an awareness that is followed by acceptance.
Acceptance opens the door to freedom. Freedom gives us the ability to take action.
Awareness provides the opportunity to address whatever is not in our best interest. What is not in the best interest of the people we love. Acceptance acts like a balm to soften the walls of our resistance and bring us to a place of action.
The action that we then take provides the momentum that helps to resolve our guilt and shame.
When parents do not deal with their shame and guilt, they make their children carry it for them. In many instances, the shame transfer is a learned behavior that is passed from one generation to the next.
Through my recovery process, I have learned many valuable lessons.
One of the most valuable lessons is that I am not responsible for anyone’s shame or guilt. I do not have to carry the burden of another person’s unresolved guilt or shame.
Each person is given an opportunity to learn and grow from their experiences.
If they chose to avoid or deny the reasons for their irritability, restlessness, and discontentment, I no longer have to absorb their pain. What I have found is that debilitating guilt and debilitating shame can only be resolved through personal/rigorous honesty.
Being Aware of Patterns
In transactional analysis, there is an expression that sums up such a process. It goes something like this; we will work it in, work it out, or project it onto other people through blame, shame, or scapegoating. As I understand this concept, when a person chooses to work it in, they chose to deny that they have shame and guilt and act as though it does not exist. When a person represses shame and guilt, addictive behavior is frequently used to avoid responsibility. When people chose to work it out, they become involved in a recovery process/program to identify and repair the reasons for that shame and guilt. The last option involves passing the responsibility for his or her shame and guilt onto anyone that is willing to be abused.
Transactional analysis sums up the last behavior as passing the “hot potato”. This last option involves making someone else responsible/the reason why they experience shame and guilt.
My Personal Experience
In my experience, my Dad’s inability or unwillingness to accept that I had a disability motivated his behavior. He blamed me for not being able to be more and do more. His criticism of my best efforts made me responsible for his disappointment. My Dad could not or would not accept that I was doing the best I could, given the fact that I was a traumatic brain injury survivor. I also believe that my Dad transferred his guilt and shame onto me for his driving the night of the accident that caused the damage to my brain. Because my Dad was unable to process his own guilt and shame, he transferred that guilt and shame onto me in the form of blame and criticism.
Not Bitter or Angry
I am not angry or bitter at Dad. I am glad I worked through a lot of my hurt and pain and was able to stop carrying my Dad’s guilt and shame for not being more. I believe that I am more than enough, disability and all. I am not my traumatic brain injury, but my brain injury changed the course of my life forever. I wish my Dad could have accepted that I was doing my very best, rather than wanting me to be someone without a disability. I am sad for both my Dad and myself because we could have had a much better relationship for many years before he died. His acceptance of my disability came in the last 3-4 years of my Dad’s life and he was able to accept that I was doing my very best.
In the last 3-4 years of his life, my Dad told me that he was proud of me on many occasions.
Message to Parents
In conclusion, I would encourage the parents that are reading this post to encourage your children. Your child may have an invisible disability that has gone undetected for many years. If you want your child to excel avoid blaming, shaming and criticizing them for not being more. They may not be able to reach your expectations, however, they may be doing the best that they can. By acknowledging this reality, you will be able to cultivate an empowering relationship with your children that will last a lifetime.
Parents by nature want their children to grow up to be professional adults. Having such a hope is not wrong, however, your child may never be able to become a Doctor or a Lawyer or some other dream you have for them. Encourage your children, teenagers, and young adults to follow their dreams, not yours. Nurture their strengths and you will both get what you desire, an empowered individual who is following their bliss.
A book that has helped me tremendously is, Shame and Guilt, Masters of Disguise by Jane Middleton-Moz. In the event that you find yourself affected by debilitating guilt and debilitating shame, I would highly recommend this book. The contents of the book opened my eyes.
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