For everyone following the drama taking place both on the Dr. Coleman forum, and here on my blog, I have a couple of observations I would like to share.
I really don't like making blanket statements and broad generalizations about certain of my theories, so I'd first like to define my terms for this post. When I refer to "estranged parents" I am remarking on only those estranged parents, either those I know in person, or whom I have read about on Dr. Coleman's forums, who, in my opinion, behaved in ways that warranted their estrangements. I fully realize that I don't have their complete stories and that I do not know them on a face-to-face level. But that evidence notwithstanding, I trust my own assessment of what they have written enough to feel confident in my offerings here. Also, in terms of the parameters of the term "estranged parents" I can not claim to have read every single entry on the forum, nor can I say that I believe they are all deserving of estrangement by their children or loved ones. However, from the many cases that I did read about, it is my opinion that many, if not most of the parents on that particular forum are, in fact, being kept at a physical and emotional distance by their children for reasons that are both sound and reasonable.
Having stated the parameters of my terms, I'd like to begin my assessment:
I have remarked in my commentary on this post that I find it humorous to think that the estranged parents who write on the Dr. Coleman forum might actually think of the forum as a "safe place." I have gathered the following examples of statements made in the forum that lead me to believe "safe place" really means "a place where estranged parents can gather to discuss their estrangements without having to deal with dissenting opinions or outcries against their immoral behaviors."
On August 12, 2011, Disappointed Mom started a new thread under the title, "This is a forum for parents estranged from adult children, isn't it?" She wrote, "It seems lately a lot of the posts here have become a little antagonistic towards parents of est. children. Isn't there a forum for adult children to go to an vent instead of coming here and antagonizing us. Just a thought."
On August 12, 2011, Cindi wrote, "I have to comment here that I think [Upsi, LSV & Jonsi] are out-of-line here on this forum...All three of you have blogs that allow you to vent regarding your personal situations...the parents that are truly victims deserve a place they can come and not be harrassed."
On August 13, 2011, A Parent Child Amp wrote, "Think it is time that, like upsi, you consider Cindi's advice and take your dialogue back to your own blog or forum."
On August 14, 2011 Dissapointed Mom started a new thread under the title, "Please use your own forums and leave us alone." She wrote, "To UPSI, jonsi, LSV and the others. we neither want nor requested any of your input. If you have issues with your own family of origin, why not go to your own forums and share your stuff there. Parents of estranged adult children don't need your judgements, insults, or unsolicited advice. You don't know us or our situations really, and speaking for myself at least I must say. This is "our" safe space for sharing and getting support from others in the same situations we find ourselves in. Most of us on here have had more than enough heartache, so please have the consideration and courtesy to leave our forum alone. Hope you understand."
Cindi called me "delusional" because, she believed that I was offended when the estranged parents demanded that we leave their forum. On the contrary, I didn't feel offended at all. I felt that they had proven me right. I felt justified. I had considered that my presence on such a forum would be seen as an annoyance, at best, and highly offensive, at worst. I knew that speaking my mind to such people would likely anger them, set them off, and cause an uproar.
I felt it was worth it in order to speak my truths, even amongst such a crowd of folks in extreme denial.
I very recently wrote a letter to a loved one in my own family, who responded to my concerns about how he has treated his children in a very similar manner to the estranged parents on the Dr. C forum. From my experience, if I couldn't even get a loved one to listen to me, to accept my opinions, to validate my feelings, I certainly wasn't going to get a crowd of possibly narcissistic, definitely selfish, completely in denial, potentially abusive parents to do it either. Again, that was not the point of why I posted there.
Seriously folks, it is absurd to think that an online public forum is a "safe space" in which to discuss your biased life-experiences.
But on that matter, I have some more thoughts to share. I believe that many of the estranged parents who post there, or who have used Dr. Coleman's book as a means to reconnect with their adult children, are only doing it for show. Of course they are using online public forums to talk about how "sad" they are for being estranged. Of course they have spent a pretty penny buying Dr. Coleman's seminars and books. Of course they are busy perpetuating their images that they are, in fact, "loving" and "caring" parents who have been shattered by their kid's estrangements. Because for most of them, they are more concerned with the appearance that they are willing to work on their problems, then they are actually willing to accept that they have flaws that need to be worked on in the first place. So, why do they continue to use public forums as a place to share their "grief?" Because it's all an elaborate act.
I'm not saying some of them don't actually feel sadness or grief over their situations. I'm saying that they don't feel sadness or grief for anyone but themselves. For someone to say that an estranged parent "deserves" estrangement or does not "deserve" estrangement implies that estrangement is all about the person being estranged. But estrangement doesn't get "done to you." Estrangement has much more to do with the unmet emotional, physical, or spiritual needs of the person enacting the estrangement, than it does about the person being estranged.
I have never mentioned this before on my blog, but I will say it now. My dear friends and readers, you may want to sit down for this one:
I was once estranged, for a year, from my entire FOO.
And it wasn't my parent's fault. I own the responsibility for my own estrangement one hundred percent.
To those of you who have been battling the argument that "it's always the kid's fault" for so long now, I am sorry to admit that I was once considered one of those estranged kids who gives you a bad rep. I realize that admitting this would probably give all those estranged parent's out there an aneurism, "See?" They'd probably say, "She just admitted it! Her estrangement was all her fault!"
But here is the very biggest difference that I can see: My parents never claimed that the estrangement was about them. They felt sad, I know they did, as did the rest of my FOO. But, their sadness wasn't for them. It was for me. My estrangement had very little to do with them at all, and was due entirely to emotional issues on my part. My mother, unlike so many of the women who post over at the estranged parents forum, did not abuse me - not emotionally, physically, or spiritually. She did not write me out of her will when I left. She did not post about her grief on a public forum and make the claims that she "did the best she could" while simultaneously making the estrangement be all about her.
Lisa made a fantastic point in her commentary on this post, when she said, "nobody wants to walk away from a good thing. and even if you are walking away because you have issues, the right person would be ACCEPTING of that. nobody can MAKE you stay. if the person wants to initiate estrangement, they ALWAYS have some DAMN GOOD REASON to want to do so. at least one that deserves being heard out." My parents realized that they could not save me from myself and, after openly sharing their concerns about my choices at a time when I was very much in denial and could not hear them, they let me go. They accepted that it was up to me to make the changes in my life that I needed to make in order to be happy and healthy.
I am thankful, every day, that I had the FOO I did growing up, because they gave me the strength and intelligence to come back to myself. But again, the biggest difference I can see between people like my parents and so many others, is that my parents deepest sadness was for me, rather than for themselves.