One of the things I do when I work with groups is I ask people to try out a few writing exercises, just to see where they may take them. Here’s one that may prove interesting.

Take a moment and recall all the times you caused your parents trouble. There must have been a few. Whether it was catching measles and chickenpox consecutively, or the time you banged up the family car, or the other mistakes that led to them digging a little deeper in their wallets, I’m sure you can recall a few. That time you fell out of the tree and wound up in hospital? That one goes in too. Jot down a list. Perhaps you found yourself being given a lecture as a result of some of these events.

When I do this very simple exercise with individuals and groups what we discover is just how long that list can be. It’s amazing how much people remember. The idea here is not to bring up bad things for the sake of it, but to notice that your parent(s) put up with the trouble you caused, for the most part. They didn’t disown you - at least not right away! They didn’t abandon you on a street corner or sell you to the pirates. They accepted you, loved you, provided for you, in their own imperfect ways.

You may have felt that your parents were hard to live with as you grew up, and you’d probably be right. But you weren’t exactly all sweetness and light, either, were you? You got things wrong, and so did they. You annoyed them just as they annoyed you, at unexpected times in unexpected ways.

Looking at your list, now, you will most likely notice that it’s not possible to feel like a victim anymore. In fact it might even be difficult to feel hard done by. You may perhaps even start to feel grateful for a few things. You may discover that they loved you more than you thought

Sometimes, of course, this exercise can bring up memories of child abuse or actual physical harm, and that requires a whole different response. Child abuse is not ‘troublesome’ but something far more profound. Often it is the action of just one parent, also. What we are looking at here is the way you were with the parent or parent substitute who stuck around and saw you through your early years.

This was the parent who loved you. It's important to remember that love.

Now do the same exercise listing the people who have been troublesome in your adult life. Again, list the trouble they caused you, and then the problems you may have caused them. I suspect you’ll find, if you’re really being open and honest, that you caused them almost as much trouble as they caused you.

No aspect of life is a one way street, and this little exercise will show you that. You may have been hurt but you were not destroyed, and you weren’t entirely blameless a lot of the time. It may suit us to think that we were above reproach, but we weren’t. That sort of self-deception won't help you. You weren't a victim.

Be grateful for the love you received, even if it felt like there wasn’t much, and know that the universe has plenty more to give. The love is there, waiting for you to notice it. But first you have to stop feeling like a victim, so you can see it.

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