Podcast – Episode 0210 – Making Peace With Your Parents

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In this episode, Joel and Antonia talk about transitioning into your own person while changing your relationship with your parents as an adult.

In this podcast you’ll find:

  • Graves Model Podcast
  • Graves Level 3 – Red: Warlord
  • Usually, people enter this transition in teen years.
  • Some people have a truncated experience with Graves 3, so they may still have an attachment to parents that isn’t healthy.
  • On the other extreme, a person can experience Graves 3 so strongly that they have permanently severed their relationship with their parents.
  • At some point, we make the transition where we no longer have to be a dependent.
  • Girls – Lena Dunham
  • Rebellion starts to wane as we reach adulthood and our relationship with our parents will often shift again to a healthier place.
  • Parents may not want the relationship to change.  
  • A person’s dependency on parent’s worldview may not always be financial; it may be ideological.
  • DNA level programming tells us to rely on our parents for safety and instruction, which is why a parent’s betrayal is so painful.
  • We pass on our DNA to our children, but we also pass on our ego. Our expression of who we are.
  • The ego itself wants to live. People put their names on buildings, gravestones, children.
  • We download all of our BS into the pristine little hard drives of our children.
  • We are programmed to seek our parents, and our parents are programmed to download their egos into us.
  • Cords can tie us to our parents, and our attempt to separate can cause some resistance.
  • Add in ideologies where your parents taught you a specific belief system, and it becomes a more significant burden to the next generation.
  • Stephen Covey’s Dependency Model:
  • Dependence – complete reliance
  • Independence – Zero reliance
  • Inter-dependence – contextual reliance
  • As children, we are extremely dependent upon our parents.
  • As we grow older, we become more independent.
  • As we mature, we begin to value the relationship we have with our parents, as peers.
  • Cord Cutting podcast
  • The more idyllic a childhood, the more likely someone will crave the safety that came with their Graves 2 experience.
  • Such an adult can find it hard to generate safety from within, so when a parent dies the adult child feels unsafe.
  • A non-idyllic childhood could look like a child’s neverending need for approval. Followed by resentment after realizing their childhood was colored by their parent’s choices.
  • When you have an unhealthy relationship with your parents, your connection to them can be profound.
  • Find the peace within yourself.
  • It’s incredible how much our parents can still influence and trigger us no matter how old we get.
  • This may come down to how we make peace with immortality.
  • We know they are trying to infuse their ego on us.
  • Make peace with your parent’s death.
  • Let go of the responsibility that you have to keep their memory and attachments alive.
  • Are you keeping traditions alive because of a sense of responsibility to your parents?
  • It’s okay that an ego dies. Express your ego in your way. Live your life.
  • Make a list with your parent’s names at the top.
  • List their core values.
  • Write down your core values.
  • Compare and contrast the two lists.
  • You don’t have any responsibility to your parent’s frame of reference – especially if they weren’t very good parents.
  • Most people try to improve upon the way they were raised.
  • You aren’t stuck in your point of origin. It doesn’t define your future.
  • All the stuff you were looking for from your parents is actually within you.
  • Real parenting is preparation. Teaching the child to be an autonomous human being.
  • Take your power back.
  • The true definition of peace with your parents is forgiving them then realizing there is nothing to forgive. They did their best.
  • Find the power within you to get the needs met that were missing during childhood.
  • You will know you have healed when there is no more resentment or blame.

In this episode, Joel and Antonia talk about transitioning into your own person while changing your relationship with your parents as an adult. #podcast

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Showing 12 comments
  • Kate

    Thanks for the podcast, this gave me a lot of food for thought. I’m 24, and my relationship with my mother has always been strained. I really identified with what you said about her trying to do one better than her parents did – I think she tried to make up for a fairly neglected childhood by being over-involved in mine, consequently making her angry at every decision I made she didn’t like, and very controlling to I feel an emotionally abusive level (putting me down, often calling me lazy, selfish, pathetic, etc in an attempt to make me do what she wants, and then calling me overly sensitive if I try to call her out on it). This even happened in our most recent disagreement, over my choice of partner (a great guy, I’ve only gotten positive reviews from everyone else in my life). Now, I know objectively that I’m none of these things – I’m actually starting medical school in a couple of weeks. But I still crave her approval, and when she tells me these things, though I no longer believe them boy does it make me unhappy. I think that to cut the chord I need to let go of the need for her to accept who I am and my choices, and my desperation for her to just even one time approve who I am, not who she wants me to be. This is further complicated though by the fact that, though I’ve been financially independent for a couple of years, I’m going back under my parents support as they’re paying for my school (they’re quite affluent, this isn’t a hard thing for them to do). Is this return to financial dependence a bad idea though? I also have the option of student loans. The emotional stuff I’m working on, but I’m already noticing a regression with this change in dynamic. Please advise, I’m really conflicted.

  • Tariq Khan


    This Be The Verse
    They #$#@ you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
    They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    But they were #$#@-ed up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
    Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

    Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
    Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

  • DG

    The point about people skipping Graves Level 3 is really interesting to me. Thinking about it, I skipped right from 2 to 4 at about the age of 11/12/13ish. I personally never saw my parents as people to rebel against, so maybe that’s part of the reason I skipped it. Or it could be that I just didn’t really think any “rebellious teenager” activities seemed appealing and just wanted to read. I wonder how common skipping levels is and how it impacts people. Maybe an interesting potential podcast topic? I’m fairly new to this particular model, so I don’t know how much content could be made out of it.

    • Antonia Dodge

      We don’t actually fully skip a level, but we can have a very truncated experience with the level and leave it without picking up all of its lessons and gifts. When this happens we generally have to revisit it at Graves 6 (Green).


  • Sally

    Thank you for this podcast, it has given me more language for what I have been experiencing with my parents. I’m 33 and for the past 3 years I have been cutting the cord or separating out from them. This has meant acknowledging that my parents were abusive to me as a child. This is not easy or straight forward as it requires forgiving myself first and foremost and seeing that I didn’t deserve it, as well as realising that I don’t have to agree with or adhere to their worldviews. It’s like stepping out of a cult – it’s been unsettling but overwhelmingly it has provided relief which is very telling that it’s the right thing to do. Learning I’m an INFJ has also enabled me to build an identity I didn’t feel I had before which isn’t based around their needs, but mine.

    I really relate to the issues around a co-dependent relationship. I’ve experienced a huge backlash from my parents since I started separating out which has really highlighted how they use me to get their needs met. At times its been quite shocking. This podcast has shown me I still have a way to go but I’m on the right path. I’ve craved being received and listened to by them, but sadly they simply don’t have the capacity for that. I’m going to have to go it alone and learn to do this for myself. I love the idea of a cord-cutting ceremony. Ever since Donnie Darko came out, I’ve always felt my cord is like Donnie Darko’s – more like a vortex that sucks me in. I’m intrigued to see how I will cut it – but I definitely need some INFJ time to mull this one over first!

    Thank you again, this has given me lots of food for thought ?

  • Catherine

    Thanks for this interesting podcast. I realise I’ve spent my life feeling unsafe and excluded, and probably the explanation is that my dad ‘betrayed me’ by dying when I was 13. Then instead of my mum keeping me safe, she ‘betrayed me’ by being unreliable, constantly changing, angry, offended by everything I said and did. Sometimes she was nice and kind, but I NEVER knew which mum I’d get- the nice or the nasty one.
    I reckon she has narcissistic traits, and delights in competing with me, pulling the rug out from under my feet, making promises she never intended to keep, being the centre of attention whenever she can e.g. at my wedding, my 40th birthday, my daughter’s christening.
    I think the cord cutting exercise will be great- I’ve spent my life hoping she’ll be the nice mum every time. But she never is and over my 49 years I’ve been pulling away further and further until I’m hardly interested in her.

  • Caty

    Great advice. These ideas around deriving permission, safety and autonomy from within is crucial in all relationships, and it was great to be reminded of that. I’m also interested in trying to articulate the ways in which my parents’ core values have subtly crafted my paradigms. For example, my dad has always made it clear that his wife (my mom) is the most important person in his life, even to the point where he tends to prioritize her needs above his own. Consciously, I feel rebellious against this idea–i’ve always felt that it’s a sign that internal work needs to be done if you’re privileging another person’s needs over the self. Considering that the self is the foundation on which all relationships are built, it seems crucial to build some type of boundaries. But I wonder whether this belief my dad has around my mom being the most critically important person in his life has built a potentially unhelpful paradigm in my head around relationships. I’ve noticed myself having trouble making boundaries between myself and other people, and it’s something i’m trying to get better at. It seems like articulating the values of our parents is a really interesting way to gain insight on how early childhood programming might be playing an undue role in our decision making.
    Thank you both so much for all your insights. you have no idea how much your thinking has positively impacted my life. : )

    • Joel Mark Witt

      Thanks Caty for leaving your story. Love to hear how mapping out your parent’s values helps you gain insight.

  • Lia

    Woah this one hit close to home. So, I’m 30, under-employed (making about 10-11K a year in an expensive area) and living at home. I’m curious about whether it’s possible to gain some emotional/psychological independence, when you’re still stuck in a pretty hefty amount of material/monetary dependence. I hate that my parents (particularly my mother) still has such a hold on my decisions, I regularly feel myself trapped by decisions that I want to make, risks I want to take, but find myself unable to… I recognize what needs to happen to achieve material independence, but it’s the other kind I find myself really craving

    • Joel Mark Witt

      Thanks Lia for the comment. I would suggest (as you are probably already suspecting) that you may need to create some independence around resource as the first step. It’s hard to make autonomous choices when you are physically dependent. It can be done – it’s just more challenging.

  • Chelsea W

    This podcast was extremely eye-opening. Thank you guys for posting such helpful content.

    I’m 27. My relationship with my parents, like a lot of people, is uncomfortable and complicated.

    With regard to my mom, I feel like I’ve been HER parent since probably around the age of 11 when my dad left. So even now, as an adult, I find myself doing things I probably shouldn’t, such as walking her down from her anxiety, helping her work through practical matters, etc, and I’ve built so much resentment around it. I can see how this is, like you guys say, one form of that “cord.” I have already exerted some boundaries with her, but it’s frustrating because I’d really like for her to do those kinds of things for me. But I know that’s often beyond her capabilities. It goes back to realizing that there are things we wanted from our parents that we can never get, and at some point we have to make peace with that. I have hope, especially after listening to your views and stories with your own parents.

    When it comes to my dad, well, he did a lot of stupid (some downright terrible) things that I still haven’t been able to forgive him for. I wrote him a long letter a few years ago detailing everything he did that really hurt me. It helped heal our relationship a bit, but after that letter he continued to do things that hurt me. It made me realize that although I talked through his behavior with him and he really understood where I was coming from, that wasn’t going to change who he is. Another thing that I am trying to come to peace with. So, I am still in the process of accepting and forgiving my dad as well, but I am moving along.

    What I’ve found prevents healing is resentment and anger. For instance, if I hold onto my anger at my dad, that resistance makes it harder to work through the more vulnerable feelings underneath. Not that my anger isn’t valid, but if I stay in that place of anger, I don’t make it any farther in my healing. I’m hoping over time I can find courage to address what’s underneath. I’ve made a lot of progress so far, so I should probably be proud of that 🙂

    Thanks again, you guys. This was awesome.

    • Joel Mark Witt

      Thank you Chelsea for sharing you experience. It sounds like you have a lot of courage to write your dad a letter like you did. It tells me that no matter what healing and growth comes next… you’ve got what it takes to face it. It encourages me to hear. 🙂

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