A large research study1 of more than 30,000 people from 72 countries showed that blaming your parents for your problems does not help you to move away from the negative consequences of challenging experiences. People are more resilient to the ups and downs of life if they take responsibility for their own actions and behaviors. “Significant gains in mental health are achieved when people experiencing mental health problems are supported in achieving greater control over their own psychological processes.”
The study found that those who dwelled on negative experiences (e.g. abuse, neglect, social deprivation) and blamed others (or themselves) for their current situation had a greater risk of suffering from mental health problem than those who didn’t. This suggests that psychological analysis which leads to one blaming ones parents can be more dangerous for mental health than the past experiences themselves.
Reframing how we view trauma
If we are to turn the trauma of the past into motivation, like Calhoun and Tedeschi (1998) who called this “posttraumatic growth”, we need to stop blaming parents and our past, and instead focus on our present and take control of our lives. Simple actions like exercising regularly, meditating, studying or reaching out to our social network, have been shown to improve psychological outcomes – including cognitive function, mental health and well-being.
Mary Pipher in her chapter on “Family Bashing” in her book Letters to a Young Therapist says “All families are a little crazy,…but that is because all humans are a little crazy. . . . If we take away belief in family, what do we replace it with?” Our families, for all their faults, they are often the ones that help us when we are sick, provide a home for us when we lose our jobs and come to our bedside when we are dying. Few friends are as available to give such unconditional love at what are often in opportune times.
It was the fashion in psychotherapy in the past to analyze our relationship with our parents and to place a lot of weight on it. But nowadays, with the advent of positive psychology and solution-focused therapies, and modalities such as mindfulness where the emphasis is on the present rather than on the past, this is seen as less important. That’s not to say that some therapists don’t still obsess about it. But you can always switch counselors until you find one that doesn’t.