Sometimes Acceptance Looks Like Pulling Away

Sometimes acceptance looks like pulling away.

When I'm working with family systems, I often encounter situations where an impasse has occurred. A child, now turned adult, may be locked in a struggle with one or more members of the family - often, it's with a parent.

In these impasses, the client wishes they could receive something from the parent. It may be acknowledgment, space, an apology, money, unconditional love or something else.

Though the content can differ, many of these requests go back to what I call 'the core plea' of the inner child:

"If only mom or dad were different, then things would be better."

"If only my father was present I wouldn't have abandonment issues." "If only mom could acknowledge me as me, then we'd have an authentic relationship." "If only I was taught how to do X, then I'd be ahead in life."

These are all examples of hold-outs from the inner child. Why? Because the hallmark of the inner child's voice is to make requests from a disempowered place. It's not good or bad, it's the child's nature.

A child cannot provide the basics of what it needs without help. And so it must ask for it from others and wait for it to happen. It has no choice but to hope someone responds to them in the way they want.

The adult is a different story. An adult is capable of finding the resources that give them acknowledgment, support, money, unconditional love etc. outside of their caregivers.

This can be an enormously tough pill to swallow. So tough, that these family impasses of waiting for someone else to change can last a lifetime.

When I work with these stalemates, I look for opportunities for acceptance.

Genuine acceptance heals. And it looks completely unique for each person.

Sometimes acceptance is warm and fuzzy and looks like forgiveness. Sometimes it looks like pulling away... and that's no less beautiful.

In fact, stepping back can be one of the most empowering acts of a person's life. It's like saying, "I no longer need to get this from you, because I know I can find it for myself."

This type of acceptance can transmute and heal decades-old impasses.

Nick Werber