Who Did You Talk To? (trauma and parenting)

As you may know, I am training this year (all 2023) in the Compassionate Inquiry for Professionals program created and taught by Dr. Gabor Mate. He developed this trauma-informed approach to psychotherapy after working for 20 years as a physician in family practice, palliative care and severe addiction.

One of the most important questions that Dr. Gabor Mate asks when he works 1:1 with clients, is:

Who did you talk to?

At a first glance, you may wonder how this is relevant in parenting and why would a busy parent with a million things to juggle care.
Here’s why we need to care about this question today; actually is it URGENT that we understand this:

  • When asked in therapy Who did you talk to? most adults answer “NOBODY” or “Mom or Dad, but they didn’t believe me”.
  • For example: Who did you talk to when you were bullied? Who did you talk to when that person (or family member, or teacher, coach etc) touched you inappropriately? Who did you talk to when you felt scared? Who did you talk to when (insert your event) happened?
  • Since most adults talked to nobody when disturbing events happened to them, it means that they did not feel safe to speak to their parents; they did not trust that their parents could hold, contain, support, guide and nurture them.
  • These adults became parents and unconsciously and unintentionally, passed on their trauma onto their children becoming emotionally unavailable (or even unsafe), just like their own parents; and that’s how generational trauma gets perpetuated.

I bring up this framework not to blame anyone’s parents, or ourselves. Healing work cannot happen when we blame.
I bring up this framework for all of us TODAY raising young children, to become aware and intentional about CREATING SAFETY in the parent-child relationship. In other words, we want our children to trust us, to come to us immediately when something hurtful or disturbing happens to them.

Children will lie and cover up the truth if they don’t trust that – no matter what! – the safety is there. This trust builds up in time, year after year, one small interaction at the time, growing like compound interest. We can’t commend a child to trust us. It will never work.

I am leaving you with these questions to reflect on:

  • How do you create safety in your relationship?
  • Does your child trust you? How do you know?
  • Does your child lie to you? How frequently? About what? What do you do when you find out “the truth”? How do you react?
  • Who did you talk to when you were young?
  • Who do you talk to now?
  • Who would you want your child to talk to if something happened to him/her?

The work of parenting is the hardest work in the world. Parents are brain architects and soul shapers, and that’s why nobody can do this work alone. We all need support from each other. Let me know in the form below what you’re struggling with; also:

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