One exercise I do often with clients is have them begin to tell the truth to their parents. This is not an attempt to blame their parents for all their current problems, but rather to reclaim a lost voice. We often relate to our parents the same way as adults as we did when we were children. In some ways, we have failed to differentiate and mature in our relationship to them. Living into our true age and no longer fusing with our inner child or allowing it to lead is a mark of maturity and a sign that we’ve outgrown unhealthy behaviors. Below is a courageous letter, reclaiming a lost voice. As you read, you will see it is not a letter of contempt, revenge, or venom, but a humble, authentic gift; inviting truth, intimacy, and connection. This is the ultimate goal. This type of authentic letter is not a form of dishonor, but immense honor and love. This letter is an invitation to genuine relationship. It is important to remember that this type of letter is not for the recipient(s), but for you. The outcome should be change and growth in yourself; it is not an effort to change them.
I hope this example will inspire you to embrace the challenge of reclaiming your own lost voice in your relationships.
“Dear Mom & Dad,
There were some things we never talked about when I was a kid.
One of them was sex. Why didn’t we talk about sex? I think you were afraid that talking about it would make me more curious about it, and predispose me towards engaging in premarital sex. This was the general fear of hyper-conservative Christianity: Don’t talk about it with your kids, don’t follow that liberal agenda.
I needed help in understanding my sexuality, but I didn’t receive that help from you. I don’t remember ever having the classic “birds and the bees” talk. I remember one brief moment where you told me that “girls have holes.” That’s about it.
Of course, as a teenager in Christian circles, I heard messages about saving sex for marriage from youth group and school, but sex itself was rarely talked about. It was considered off-limits. The topic was taboo, and even curiosity about it was bad.
Surrounded by a hyper-sexual society, growing up in a family and social circles that viewed sex as taboo conversation, and hitting puberty and encountering my own sexuality for the first time created the perfect storm. When I needed guidance most, I was isolated. You weren’t there for me, and I had to navigate that all by myself. Where were you?
My curiosity led me to seek out what women “really” looked like. I soaked up images of women in underwear ads, and eventually found my way to pornography. You caught me once, but after that, I learned how to hide it. I was already hiding the rest of me from you anyway, so it was no big deal to hide this, too.
My healthy young curiosity soon ramped up into a compulsive sexual behavior. Porn became my sex-ed teacher. This unwanted sexual behavior has plagued me since junior high, and I’m only now just beginning to unravel where, how, and why I got to this place.
You could have helped me back then. Maybe you were unable, scared, or unsure of how to approach the topic of sexuality. Still, I needed help, and more than just “Don’t have sex before marriage” help. I needed my newfound desires to be treated as a natural part of growing up, to be normalized. I needed less secrecy about sexuality, about anatomy; about bodies. Maybe if sex hadn’t been so scary and taboo (and therefore more appealing), I wouldn’t be dealing with all of the consequences from my actions right now.
I made these choices, and by no means I’m I saying this is your fault, but it is important for me to name that you had a significant role in the development of my struggle. It was your silence and fear that enabled me to get to this place. I was just a kid, you know. I needed parental connection and guidance, not merely, rules. I love you both, and I hope this letter can be the beginning of an authentic relationship between us.”