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Family Trauma: Responding With Control or Love

June 20, AD2014 20 Comments

\"Melanie

In the past six months, my large family of eleven has been tested by multiple traumas; we have been  bombarded with illness, cancer and subsequent treatments, a threat of a premature birth of our fifth grandchild and a traumatic birth, celebrated  the birth of a fourth grandchild, suffered with  a daughter cracking under  a combination of  duress and post traumatic stress, commiserated and supported a daughter through first year university drama, and uncovered past wounds that are only now surfacing to the light.

All nine of my adult kids, my husband and I have experienced panic and fear. Some reacted with anger, others with anxiety and still others with depression, but through it all I know that I know that God is bringing everything out into the light to heal us. In the end, we will be closer than ever.

I have rediscovered the power of humility, forgiveness and  letting go of control. Everything in me screams to protect, patch up, smooth over, especially in the face of rage. But, I cannot control the way each person processes trauma or demanding situations. I mess up when I react and defend, or try to appease. Patience and silence is much more effective. God has a chance to move and whisper in those silent places.

I realized that the opposite to love is not hate, but control.  Sometimes as a parent, I think that I am doing what is right. Instead I damage my kids, despite the best of intentions.

Love really has blinded me as I try to protect instead end up controlling.

Control is an ugly word, betraying trust - worse than hate; it steals another’s sense of self, undermines confidence, stunts growth, kills the individual’s spirit and creativity.

An over controlling mother refuses to surrender her children to God, because she basically does not trust Him to do a better job than she can.

Ponder: Are you tempted to over control your children?

Prayer: Lord have mercy on us as mothers. Give us the grace to surrender our children to You.

© 2014. Melanie Jean Juneau. All rights reserved.

About the Author:

Melanie Jean Juneau is a petite wife, writer and mother of nine children who blogs at joy of nine9. When the words "The Joy of Mothering on a Hobby Farm" popped into her head as a subtitle for her short stories, it was like an epiphany for her because those few words verbalized her experience living with little people.The very existence of a joyful mother of nine children seems to confound people. Her writing is humorous and heart warming; thoughtful and thought provoking with a strong current of spirituality running through it. Part of her call and her witness is to write the truth about children, family, marriage and the sacredness of life, especially a life lived in God.

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  • james

    Thank You. This is so very well understood by those whose faith says: let go and let God. Yet, how many … serious Catholics … feel the need to control every aspect of their childrens lives like it’s some kind of spiritual life insurance. You teach, they
    decide, and if you have not enough faith in the faith you tried to impart, you will be
    doomed to examine your life in the lives of others. This is how a mind develops a
    psychosis. My prayers for all your family.

    • james

      A correction to the above – … a mind may develop a neurosis, not psychosis.

    • melanie jean juneau

      I think over control is based in fear

    • Phil Dzialo

      Not always. over-control is sometimes based on narcissism and power…

    • melanie jean juneau

      Yes I guess you are right, especially on a lareger scale like a company or country….my actions sprang out of a fear that everything was falling apart unless I held it together. As if my family stood on the rim of a wagon wheel with cracked spokes as I attempted to grab any crumbling spoke as we balanced over a chasm.f

    • melanie jean juneau

      of course you are right, especially on a larger scale such as a head of a company or even a country

  • NurseTammy

    I agree with your column completely and bless you for it. I have also experienced some terrible disasters in the last 2 years and I care for families in crisis…I have decided that adaptation is a much higher level of coping than control. I imagine that a good avenue of adapting is to trust …trust God, trust yourself, trust others (including our children).

    • melanie jean juneau

      yes, adaptation with trust because we have no idea what God is doing in the depths of their hearts and behind the scenes

  • LivingCatholic

    Melanie, thanks for the timely post. As a mother/grandmother/therapist the topic of my personal “doing good for others = my own control issues” is timely. It was not until I had adult children raising their own families and many client sessions that I personally realized that much of what I was “doing for others” was to relieve the possibility of my own pain which would occur when they were in pain! Ellen Marie Dumer

    • melanie jean juneau

      exactly…so much of our supposedly selfless service is based on our own need to control rather than what is best for the other

  • Pingback: Building a Civilization of Truth & Love - BigPulpit.com

  • Christopher Fish

    hmm.. “I realized that the opposite to love is not hate, but control”. I’d say the opposite of love is indifference. It seems to me there is a balance here. From the context I’d say you mean ‘illegitimate control’, because you seem to be talking about adults who you no longer have any legitimate authority over.

    If you have proper authority over a thing or a person you do and should control them in so far as you expect them to abide by rules that you put forward with love for their own good. Still I would hope no one means to extrapolate that as any kind of statement about say ‘church authority’ which is always over us all.

    The church, like any other authority, can be unloving , be failing to take action that curtails and controls bad behavior , just as a parent would be unloving ( and abusive) by giving a child whatever they wanted. ( an example would be letting your 5 year old get drunk because they wanted too).

    So their are certainly times when we have an obligation to be ‘controlling’ and to take control of a situation and times when it is absolutely unloving to be so. I think ,love , needs to be motivation for exercise of authority and hopefully informed through wisdom and prayer.

    • melanie jean juneau

      of course all your points are valid. I think that this is a question of semantics. For me control is a negative word but take to charge with proper authority, in love and gentleness, is another matter. It is easy to move into over control as a concerned parent

  • Bill S

    My wife was very controlling when raising my two sons who are now in their 30s. The younger one has decided that she is the cause of his problems. He has decided to disown the whole family now that he is financially independent. He sent the most hurtful email and text message telling us not to contact. I continued to send emails not sure he would even read them. I said some things that must have struck a nerve and he has threatened to take out a restraining order. I am very hurt by his actions. I’m no longer a believer but I do pray with my wife for his well being.

    • melanie jean juneau

      My only consolation during times of discord is,”This too will pass”. Sometimes our adult offspring need to break away; the only way they can pull it off is with anger and blame directed at the controling parent. Sometimes even the sound of my voice upset an adult child struggling to find their own identity and break free. It is almost like another terrible two stage or teen rebellion. I find the statement true that we only dare treat others with anger when we are sure of their unconditional love.

    • Bill S

      Your words are consoling. I sense that he did not mean what he said but that he saw it as the only way to distance himself from us. I feel like the father of the prodigal son looking at the horizon for him to return.

    • melanie jean juneau

      Exactly..you understand the dynamic of what is really going on. A psychatrist friend always says that we areonly free to vent our inner torment, anger, woundedness to those who love us uncondtionally. When I take rejection personally, like a knife in my heart, then I am reacting like a victimn sacrifice not like a wise, loving parent who understands human growth and inner healing. I am just now learning to stop that self-destructive cycle

    • Bill S

      I’m glad we had this discussion. Thank you.

  • Debbie

    As one who understands the impulse to try to fix things, sometimes out of desperate fear, and yet also knowing the deep need to truly love instead by letting go and patiently waiting, trusting that all things will work together for good for those who love God, even if for a while, it may not seem like it. . . I identified with this on a very deep level. God has been teaching me these same things, and very, very graciously–much more graciously than I deserve. Thank you for this article.

    • melanie jean juneau

      Yes, for most parents , we try to control out of fear and panic rather than out of pride