Good Parent - Bad Parent
The Secret Conflict
Dr. Rossanna Massey, D.C., EFTCert-II
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As an EFT practitioner, my primary specialty is dealing with the emotions and physical metaphors that lie beneath serious diseases. Although there are exceptions to the rule, I end up working mostly with anger issues. In this journey, I have found some very consistent observations and reactions from clients about a “hidden aspect," that when uncovered often causes profound shifts and insights. I've come to call it the Good Parent/Bad Parent conflict.
This insight is commonly overlooked when working with people who have had the unfortunate experience of being mistreated and abused by one of the parents. The “bad” parent is easily the source of many tapping issues and provides an excellent source for many specific events, while the parent who was “good” was typically the island in the storm of the household. In my opinion, the “good parent” is a big “blind spot” and uncovering this can rapidly lead to clarity and emotional healing.
What I mean by that is this: it seems that typically when the client focused on the “mean” parent and canonized the other, I consistently found the “sainted parent” to be the real source of rage. This can be totally unapparent to the client's conscious mind, and it’s always a completely surprising discovery. To acknowledge the realization that while one parent was abusive, the other parent, for their own reasons, let it happen repeatedly and didn't protect you from it, refocuses the source of rage and raises new abandonment issues.
This is not without a great deal of resistance from the client, so much so that it has to be approached gradually, gracefully and in a roundabout way. Getting someone to say, “even though I am angry at my mother” usually elicits “but that's not true, I love my mother, she was always there for me, I don't have any anger at my mom." There seems to be a great deal of resistance to expressing dissatisfaction or anger toward the 'good' parent, and an underlying sense of guilt in doing so. “How could I say that when she/he was so good to me?”
A good parent is definitely a touchy subject and like anything else there are variables in every situation. I advise practitioners to use your intuitive sense as to when the client is ready to explore all angles. If you are a practitioner, with a good client interview in place, you can easily recognize some of the intricacies of personal motivation, and determine if the client is indeed a “real” client.
The ideal clients are those who have come to a point in their lives with enough congruence already in place to know they can still improve their journey. They are motivated to get better, and open to exploring every aspect, while other clients are just in love with the “quest” and you'll never get through the resistance they offer, their secondary gains, or their need to remain in control. I have respect for everyone, nevertheless, and never take it personally if I can’t work with a client. The path to self-help and healing is a very deep and personal journey, with individual differences in the velocity and acceleration in which to get there.
My approach has been to coax the client into 'trying on' the phrases, assuring them that there is no disrespect intended. As Gary Craig called it, “garbage and gold," an intuitive guess or a hunch for a setup phrase will either land or not, with no harm done, and no harm intended. This is the time a good pre-frame is useful before delivering the setup phrase. In my experience what usually happens is a sudden and startling recognition as they are tapping, a realization of the underlying emotions about the 'good' parent that were deeply and truly hidden.
Of course, we are not trying to play the “blame game” here, but rather to distribute the anger; to put the parental dynamics into an adult perspective rather than the perspective of a child operating emotionally in suspended animation. It may well be a relief to the client to realize that it takes one passive parent to allow the aggressive one to call the shots. Since the ultimate goal here is to achieve clarity, forgiveness and deep healing, it is important to reach a place of understanding about both parents. Personal peace falls somewhere in the middle of all this.
While there is a multitude of personal justifications why one parent is willing to stay in an environment of abuse that includes the children, with regard to the good parent, it’s important to recognize that powerlessness is a probable core issue.
An example of this was in the case of my client, William. A well-respected and renowned Gestalt psychotherapist for over 40 years, William called me because he was suffering from a serious disease, having received a dire diagnosis by his doctors. Based on his life's work and educational background, he was skeptical about EFT, but desperation led him to at least trying it.
William, the youngest of two sons, came from an affluent family, and had a father who was in a political position of great prestige and authority, and unfortunately, an alcoholic. In this case, his mother, the “Saint,” had to keep up appearances as the perfect wife and mother in public, but privately accommodated an aggressive and dominating alcoholic husband.
His mother, who above all was a genteel Southern lady who never acted out inappropriately, also had a long history of bouts of depression and withdrawal in which, without warning, she would take to her bed for weeks at a time. He understood this intellectually, and had nothing but compassion for all she endured. As for William, anger was a very bad thing to express. In fact, the only way he could express his own rage was to be intoxicated – like, guess whom?
By Williams own admission, he’d worked with some of the top psychotherapists in his field on sorting out his past to heal and enhance his understanding of himself, and his clients. At our initial interview, he told me his father had been the bane of his childhood existence, and was, understandably, the topic of his many years of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). He assured me that there was nothing left to deal with regarding his father, and suggested we could look at other aspects of his adult life that he felt were undone.
Throughout his life, personal and professional, he regarded himself, and in fact was known to be, very easy going. William, an accomplished intellect in his field, specialized in men’s issues, specifically, anger management. As a testimony to his successful therapeutic counseling style, he was compelled to set an example for his peers (and clients). Even after a very painful divorce (unfaithful wife), he gamely took it on the chin, shook hands with his “best friend" (the man she left him for), and bid his wife farewell after 20 years of marriage. He was proud of how civilized he had been. Besides, he’d be just like his father if he did display anger, if he looked or acted as if he had fallen apart. He felt it would prove that he really didn’t have it all together, and he’d be discovered – God forbid, after all, appearances are everything.
Our first session involved coaxing an anger response at his “best friend,” who had an affair with his wife. I used the EFT “Power Back” technique, which elicited a true rage response and shock at his own reaction. The result of that session was a cessation of the constant 8-9 intensity level of pain he felt in his mid back – a knife-like stabbing pain (get the metaphor on this one?). That got his attention, and he decided that there really was something to this “energy stuff.”
After our second session, reviewing our earlier conversations about his father's drunken rages, I casually asked William where his mother was in all of this? He said, “that 's a good question, but let's have a look.” The only thing he could come up with was that his mother always wanted everything to be perfect, including him. She was always fidgeting with his hair, his collar, constantly “fixing” him, so he would look presentable because, according to William, appearances were everything. “That’s just the way mom was; everything was always wrong for her. Nothing was ever good enough or right." With that I suggested, for exploratory purposes, that we do a round of tapping about that just to see if there is any emotional charge about having to look perfect. He replied “OK, if you think so, but I doubt it."
“I can accept myself even though mom wasn’t satisfied with the way I looked."
After a round of tapping, William said he felt some anger welling up in his chest, and what started at a “0” emotional charge, spiked up to a 7 level of intensity. He said he always felt like something was wrong with him due to her disapproval and rearrangement of his attire or hair. Then, an old memory came up about her sending him back into his room to change his clothing after he had taken great care trying to look his best for a birthday party. He felt sad and mad at the same time about this event. Following his lead, we continued.
“Even though my best wasn’t good enough that day, something is wrong with me, maybe I can accept myself."
He got even angrier after two rounds of “something’s wrong with me." It went up to a 10 level intensity. He said, “you know Rossanna, to this day I refuse to wear a coat and tie” #@% damn it”!
Other tapping phrases followed:
“Even though mom wasn’t perfect she expected me to be”
“Even though I always wish mom was like Billy’s mom”
“Even though I don’t know why she even had us if she was so sick to begin with”
“Even though I was born to make her happy, and it didn’t work”
“Even though I could never make her happy”
“Even though I never knew when she would get sick again and leave us alone with dad”
An intuitive thought popped up suddenly that prompted an extended setup phrase. We had much to do yet, and with this new can of worms opened, I thought we could fit clarity and forgiveness in the phrase with this particular issue—it was worth a shot.
“Even though mom felt wrong inside, everything was wrong for mom, and she tried her best to make me right, but it made me feel wrong; I can accept how I feel about this now, and choose clarity, so I can fully forgive her." Reminder phrase: “It was the way mom felt about herself; it was never about me; my appearance was the only thing she could control; she could allow herself to feel better when I looked just right, knowing what I know now, I can feel compassion for her inner struggle and forgive her with all my heart."
William was very surprised that this seemly benign issue about his mother, who could do no wrong, had suddenly unfolded into such anger. That’s the beauty of EFT; if it’s wafting around on a cellular level, it will surface with tapping! After testing and retesting this issue, he felt it was a zero.
The next unexpected negative event that involved his mom was a “wait until your father gets home” issue. This specific issue was a memory he said he had spent many hours on in therapy, the focus being on his father only. Even so, here it was again, with his mother being the focus this time.
Although his mom knew the ferocity of her husband’s temper fueled by drinking on his way home from work, she consistently assigned him the task of disciplining the children. William recalled being very young (2 or 3 years old) when this happened. He couldn’t remember why his oldest brother got in trouble, but he recalled waiting with his brother in the bedroom until his father got home. There was an obviously high emotional charge in just saying that much out loud, so I approached the event by sneaking up with the Tearless Trauma Technique, then had him Play the Movie, and later, Tell the Story.
“Even though I was afraid he would kill you”
“Even though I can still see him chase you around the table”
“Even though I can still see myself crying in the closet”
"Even though I didn’t think he would ever stop beating you”
“Even though I was too small to help you”
“Even though I was too afraid to help you”
I asked him where his mom was during all this? He said, “Standing there watching it happen."
“Even though you (mom) didn’t stop it”
“Even though you knew what would happen and set him up anyway”
“Even though you didn’t give a damn”
“Even though I #%&*ing hate you for that”
“Even though you’re a coward”
“Even though I can’t trust you”
William was stunned at his anger toward her after our session. Perhaps there were reasons why he was so angry and couldn’t cope? Could it be possible that dad felt he needed to be anesthetized just to come home to his own reality? Why did he punish his dad by rebelling and embarrassing him? Was it based only on his childhood understandings and viewpoints, the writing on his walls? Maybe dad wasn’t such a bad guy after all?
He came to the realization that his mother actually had anger by proxy (for her own reasons, and the probable core issues behind her depressions). She, the passive parent set up (angry responses ) for the aggressive parent, her husband. She wasn’t there for either of her children in the biggest way. She either coped by escaping into her closed-bedroom-door depression, or passively watched as she orchestrated the rage filled family dynamics with everyone being her pawn—because she felt powerless.
William came to realize that her passive aggression was extreme. If she had had the courage and clarity to love and respect herself, to protect herself and her children, none of this would have happened – the family dynamics would have been very different. Meanwhile, other insightful “mother” epiphanies resonated for him the rest of the week after our session which he eagerly used as material for his homework in between our sessions. He was my most compliant client in that respect.
I received an email from William a day after this session which, to me, was living proof of how very profound his inner healing had been, that he really “got it” and acknowledged it. A man with his background could have had real professional resistance issues, but we addressed that possibility early on.
“After working on this issue on Wednesday, I had a sudden thundering realization that I did learn about forgiveness, and I learned it from my father, but missed the lesson because I was so anti-anything-father. And I remember well, on a cellular level, the feeling of utter relief and freedom and joy at being forgiven, which comes back to me now in a physical sensation of elation. I made a list of all the people I had ever harmed or who had harmed me, and I've been tapping and struggling to forgive them and me. From inside my mother's world, this wasn't going very well and seemed to have no end, and now, from inside my father's world, which is now very much my own, forgiveness comes so easily, with the grace of a summer breeze, that I am in a state of amazement and tears.”
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My primary specialty is serious diseases, though I am experienced in a wide variety of problems and issues. Trained as a Chiropractic Physician, my background in the healing arts gives me an advantage in working with physical manifestations of illness. I never hesitate to confront the emotional underpinnings of even the most serious of health problems, including pancreatic cancer.
I can be reached for private consults and phone sessions at
915-240-7487 or visit my website, www.EFTHelp.com
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