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It has been eleven years since my father passed away. I never had good relationships with Dad. Never. Sometimes I would feel love to him, but then I would have a flashback of some moment of my childhood or my teen years or even my early adulthood (before my marriage) when he screamed at me, or interrogated me, or stopped me from doing what I wanted to do (for my own good, of course…), or forced me to do things I hated… And then I would feel all-consuming anger, as if the screaming or interrogation episode had happened yesterday and not years ago.

Even after Dad’s death, I still had those flashbacks, followed by intense inner anger.

My father never told me the story of his childhood… I wonder what HIS childhood was like? Was he screamed at? Strictly controlled, prevented from doing what he wanted, forced to do things he disliked? I’ll never know for sure, but chances are, the answer to all these questions is “yes”.

I’m still, at the age of 51, healing the wounds of my childhood. Fortunately, I have found many things that have helped greatly me in this healing process. One of them is this sweet little story, told by Nathaniel Branden:

“I was talking with a man whom I knew for some years, and his father had died a few months earlier. His father was a very bitter, tyrannical man. His father grew up in a household where he felt hated by his family, so he brought that hatred to his own family. Now his son, whom I was talking to, was treated with cruelty by the father, and I knew they really hadn’t had a good relationship. So the son and I were having lunch together, and I said: “Tell me, did you ever have a chance to clean things up with your father?” He said, “Yes, before he died we really had a chance to get close again. He told me a lot of stories about how my grandfather was a cruel, cruel man, an aesthete who resented my father for having some physical impediment. So I really understood where my dad was coming from. I don’t hate him anymore, I hate my grandfather.”

“There was a pause. Then I responded, “I’d like to tell you what just happened in my head. I heard the grandfather saying to me: ‘Wait a minute, grandson. Let me tell you about my father.’” The moral of the story is—everybody has a story.

“Anytime a client comes to me complaining about their parents, I automatically think of their grandparents, whose behaviors often explain everything. That’s the curse of being a psychologist: that you think of such things. It’s really nicer to be able to say, “Oh, what a bastard.” But being aware of everybody’s story, it’s much tougher to get mad at people.”” [1]

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this story, and how much I can relate to Nathaniel Branden’s patient… I read and re-read this story so many times… and every time, I find that it helps me greatly to heal my soul from the resentment I have had since childhood…

My father never told me the story of his childhood, but I think it’s very likely that, had he done so, I’d started to hate my grandfather – until I considered great-grandfather story… and then my great-great-grandfather’s story… and so on… the tradition of controlling children in a suffocating way is very, very old…

Healing takes time… but I think I’m getting there.

[1] (The story comes from this interview: http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/Mouhibian/Nathaniel_Branden_Interview,_Pt_3.shtml)