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Giving Up The Fantasy Parent
by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, June 2007

Are you someone who bemoans the luck of the parent draw or are you grateful for the parents you have and the lessons you can learn from having them as parents? Even if we profess love for our parents, some of us simultaneously dwell on how far our parents fall from the epicenter of our "perfect parent" fantasy. The ideal can differ greatly - from parent-as-patient-confessor to parent-as-relentless cheerleader and everything in between.

Having an ideal of this sort is a common, understandable human reaction to unhappiness and frustration, but in hanging on to angry fantasies about your parents, you are letting yourself get stuck in a common childhood stage that is very painful. Blaming your parents not only for their actions but for who they actually are is a neat way to abrogate responsibility. It creates a negative environment that diverts you from coming up with practical solutions to deal with the real situation.

Accepting the reality of who you parents are, separate from your dreams and expectations -- and from their peer group or the parents of your friends -- is a painful process, but one that will, in the end, elevate you to a much more comfortable, pragmatic plane.

Following are some steps that may be helpful:

Mourn. You should feel free to grieve the fact that you didn't get the parents you feel you deserved. Then, say good-bye to your fantasy. In doing this you lay to rest a piece of your own internal resistance and pave the way for liberation.

Transpose the Loss of the Fantasy Parent into a New Identity. Before you can be whole, you must relinquish the fantasy by realizing that not having such parents does not define you. You are responsible only to yourself for what you are and what you will become.

View Your Parents As They Are. There is no such thing as "perfect" parents. Parents are human, and therefore imperfect.

Catalogue Your Parents' Strengths. It is easy to overlook positive qualities and focus on the annoying aspects of our parents' personalities.

Accept Your Parents. They are living, breathing, changing entities who neither define you nor defeat you.

Anyone who wants to become more socially competent needs to maximize opportunities to teach, practice, enhance, model, and learn the very skills they hope to develop.

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