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The Big Answer

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Cutting Loose: An Adult's Guide to Coming to Terms with Your Parents

a book by Howard Halpern

(our site's book review)

The book attempts to help adult people stuck in old, dysfunctional parent-child relationships (with their parents) to get unstuck (without having to resort to Primal Therapy harshness). He shows the way out of destructive patterns so that happier, more constructive relationships can be given a chance. People who never find enough love and encouragement of their being from their parents when they’re growing up sometimes begin a hopeless quest for parental love and approval (Janov—the Primal Therapy guy—calls it “the struggle”) that never ends even if their parents die. The quest is always hopeless, because if kids don’t get their needs filled as kids, the chances that parents will suddenly change once their kids grow up and actually fill these new adults’ needs is nil.

People record their early experiences as “tapes.” Any number of stress factors can start these tapes replaying in present time, or the reason for a replay can simply be experiencing present-time voices, smells, attitudes, etc., that remind people of early experiences. These things “restimulate” the early experiences. A person run by tapes is at effect, and his/her life will not work very well. A mature, autonomous person will have gotten needs filled either in childhood (best case) or later and will be at cause, and not run by tapes and present-time destructive patterns between himself/herself and his/her parents.

old tapes
Your old tapes are emotional baggage

Halpern tries to help the reader to notice when emotions come up in him/her that show s/he’s in a reactive state and slipping into an old pattern. The readers need to transcend this pattern by seeing it for what it is, realizing that they’re more than wounded children trying to fill needs, and by being motivated to change from the pain and suffering caused by being run by these tapes. The goal is to transcend dependence and achieve the autonomy of independence. The best-case scenario is that the parent will welcome the new maturity—perhaps after a few struggles and confrontations—and the reader will be able to continue relating to the parents on a higher level. The worst-case scenario (short of going back to being run by tapes and hopeless struggles) is that the parent(s) are too negative to be willing to shift into a higher level of relating, and seem hopelessly stuck on their patterns. In this case, contact with such people should be limited until they find a way to change and quit trying to drag their offspring back into the mire, and this may never happen. Accept that.

This is a good “achieving freedom from oppression” tool. A few of the best parenting methods for avoiding wounding your kids emotionally are: Unconditional Parenting, P.E.T., and Helping Young Children Flourish.