Parents Just Don’t Understand: Giving Up The Need of Being Understood

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”- Maya Angelou

Hey Mom!..I’m a Big Kid Now

There is no doubt that for most of us our family’s are the strongest influence and therefore main attachment in our lives. This attachment may also be the strongest source of conflict for us.

I truly love my family, but for anyone that knows me its pretty obvious that I am completely different. I have always struggled in trying to have my parents understand how I see things and the type of life I want to lead. Their ideas of the life they desire me to live is just about the complete opposite of what I want.

Many of these differences are simply due to the fact that we grew up in radically different times and circumstances. My parents came to the states with many of the same aspirations that most immigrants have, which is to pursue the “American dream” and provide opportunities for their children that they never had.

They worked extremely hard and accomplished all of the above. I feel because of their tough journey they end up investing much of their sense of self in their children, that when they don’t conform to their vision, it causes much conflict for both party’s.

The Parent Child Attachment

I think its safe to say that most parents identify their identity with their children and their role as a parent. Usually there will be a big disconnect between children and their parents. On a certain level they don’t want their kids to grow up, because when their kids no longer need them to survive, who are they?

Our family attachment is so strong for the simple fact that we have such a long past, we have thousands of mental images of one another, that in the end there really is no “real” relationship anymore.

The relationship is only between the images, which is not the actual thing. I have an image of who my father is, and my father has his image of who I am, and through these images we see each other. So when your image no longer conforms to the image your parents have of you, it can cause great pain.

Not to toot my own horn, but I was a pretty good kid growing up. I stayed out of trouble for the most part, played sports, and did very well in school. I went to a good university and got a degree in finance. Everything was looking great as my parents saw it. Now I just needed to focus on my career, get married, have children, and my parents could pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

The only problem was that I realized the world changed, and the life my parents envisioned for me, was no longer a reality for many people my age.

I understood I really did not have much experience with the “real” world. I wanted to see the world and at the same time dedicate my energy to learning about myself and the topics that interested me.

So when I told my parents that I was quitting my job, and moving to a new country to pursue my interests, you can only imagine that it did not go over too well.

My parents wondered what happened to me, they felt like I was abandoning them. They could not see that me moving overseas was not the problem, but their attachment to the image they had of the life they wanted me to have. I was doing exactly what they never expected me to do.

The Realization That Broke My Attachment

It’s been several years, and several countries later and recently I have had a huge weight lifted off my shoulders by a few deep realizations I had.

The main thing I realized was that I gave up the need of trying to have my parents understand me. I realized they will never understand, it’s impossible, the only hope is if they realize the same thing.

Once I realized this deeply, I felt a great relief of letting go of the desire that I wished my parents changed, or behaved differently.

“To understand everything is to forgive everything”- Buddha

I allowed things to be as they “are”, just accepting “what is”. I allowed myself to forgive them, because in reality they never did anything to me, they did not understand what they where doing. They where just acting as most people do, which is from their unconscious tendencies.

Because of this our relationship has transformed. My mother still has a ways to go, but on a certain level, I think she has accepted that I am someone who will follow his heart no matter what.

It is a very liberating feeling to not waste anymore energy in trying to have someone understand you. A deep contentment came with learning to accept and love my family for who they are, to no longer have my need of being understood stand between me and my parents having a relationship. It’s ok if they don’t understand me, that’s not important anymore.

What can you learn from me and my parents:

  • Attachments and your sense of self: Examine what your main attachments in life are, do you derive your sense of self from them? Understand that when you see your “self” in external objects you will be in bondage to that object. Whenever that object changes or is taken away from you, you will experience deep suffering.

    Who you are is not in what you do, what you have, or any external object. You will only discover your self in your own inner space. If you want that new Mercedes Benz, examine why you really want it? You may come to find that its because somehow you see your identity embedded in it, and the more you invest in those mental images, the more you feel you need to have it because you feel incomplete without it.

  • Allowing things to be as they “are” and accepting what “is”: We always look at things only as we think they should be, totally neglecting the actual fact and therefore can’t see the causes to our problems. Whenever your able to see something clearly as it is, in that direct perception you will go through a transformation, in that very instant you go beyond the mental obstacle you had created.

I would just like to sincerely thank you for reading my post, I hope you find something valuable in it. I would love to hear how you overcame any family issues, or any important lessons you learned about the attachments in your life. Leave your comments below, take care, and be well.

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(Video of my adventures in China)

Thank you for stopping by “The Extraordinary Self Development Blog”.(editors note: Post originally appeared on August 13th, 2010)

15 Responses to Parents Just Don’t Understand: Giving Up The Need of Being Understood

  1. Parents are great. But what better is learning how to do things on your own. Learning from our mistakes is great. Our parents can guide us throughout our entire life, this is why we have to become big kids. When we grow we have to let go of the babysitter and deciding that its time for us to make our own mistakes.

  2. This was a very interesting read Ivan. I think another component is that many people will not do the things they really want to do because they want to do the things they think will make their parents happy or they feel they will receive the most approval from. What I mean is that growing up as kids we look for that approval and pat on the back for a job well done from our parents and that often continues into adulthood. At some point you have to stop and ask yourself if you are doing what YOU want to be doing. If not then you need to find another path to be traveling on.

    I like that you are living your life on your own terms. You know what you want and are living it every day. I also continue to move forward with my plans to live a different life overseas. I’m a bit older and my parents still don’t understand it. They want me to buy a house. Think about your kids! They need a stable home to live in. I couldn’t disagree more. I don’t want to be tied down to a house with a 30 year mortgage. My kids will be better off exploring the world and all it has to offer. Those experiences are worth more than any classroom could teach them. Only recently has my Mom bought into things and even commented that “If you are going to do it better do it soon. You’re not getting any younger.” Life is too short to be living someone elses dreams.

    • thanks for sharing 🙂 matt…I think your kids are going to love being exposed to different environments…good luck on the journey 🙂

  3. I agree wholeheartedly.
    My childhood was externally interesting, but emotionally a nightmare. AND they never ‘got me’. A few yrs ago the most traumatic thing happened to me as an adult – my apartment burned down around me – lost everything, including my beloved cats & 2000 books. The only thing my father asked me was “So, what did you learn?” and he was the nice one!

    I’ve been working on S & I (separation & individuation) for the last 35 yrs, & use what I’ve learned to help others. Pls visit my blog at
    Thank you for you insight & for pursuing your inner truth!

  4. It’s an interesting paradox with parents. We are all born into a conversation and are handed a collection of beliefs… often times these beliefs are limiting. Breaking free from these beliefs will illicit opposition from those closest to us. This is when we have to be true to ourselves and listen to those higher messages that well up from deep inside.

    • Thanks for contributing and adding to the post Rob, we really do need to learn how to listen to those messages and keep moving forward….take care…be well my friend 🙂

  5. Yo Ivan,

    As somebody who knows you as well as anybody (except maybe your parents) this post is an inspiration, but also a bit of a bummer.

    I remember reading some Vonnegut where he talks about life being the opening and closing of a peephole where you have inherent circumstances without any choice in the matter. Parents happen to be one of those.

    While I don’t think it is always necessary to make your parents understand or accept what you are doing, especially when they are too stubborn to see, it doesn’t hurt to try.

    While your lifestyle has diverged from their images of who you are and what you should be doing, that doesn’t mean there needs to be a separation in the reciporocated love between you and them.

    Our relationships with our parents are different, but we both come from very loving households. Although you are doing your own thing, and that is great, it would be nice if you could talk about how, through those differences of opinion you talk about in this article, you manage to maintain a loving and gratifying relationship with your P’s.

    Annyonghi kasayo, sayounara, pura vida and peace,

  6. I can totally relate to this post and glad I came across it. My parents were caught up in who they wanted me to be and when I defied from that even very early on, they did everything they could to try and get me back on that path. They worked to try to fit me into a mold that I didn’t fit into. It’s like they’d rather me be unhappy and fulfill the life they wanted me to live, than be happy and follow my heart. They did things that I can not forgive them for and it really damaged our relationship.

    I know that eventually, I have to let go of that, and realize that they are who they are… just as I am who I am. Until that happens though, it still causes a lot of tension. I’m deeply hurt by the past and it continues to hurt me when they treat me differently because of the choices I’ve made. I’ve been a good kid, I’m successful, I’m happy, and I’m relatively healthy… what more could you ask for? I just want them to be proud of my accomplishments and happy for me, to put the fakeness aside and be genuine about it.

    • thanks so much for sharing 🙂 checked out your site :)…I think it’s safe to assume we have very similar outlooks on life :)…good luck on your up coming adventure…be well 🙂

  7. Ivan,

    Congratulations on reaching this understanding at such a young age. I am now 48 and just finally have come to terms with this truth. Like you, I come from a Latino family that simply has not been able to “get me”. EVER.

    I finally realized this truth while celebrating my most recent birthday (a week ago). I’ve realized that the main reason of conflict between my parents and I (especially with my mother) is that simply I have not fulfilled the “vision” or “image” they had or still have of/for me. I’ve always rebelled against it in what I thought were small, insignificant ways. Small victories I used to call them.

    As I quickly approach the big 5-0 I’ve begun to realize that these victories have not been small at all! I have achieved a great deal and that paralysis for me comes when I forget to celebrate and relish my own accomplishments. Don’t get me wrong; I have great friends and a support network of believers. But only I truly know what it has taken for me to get where I am now, good or bad. With or without family support. I am my own family most days and I am Ok with that.

    Sometimes I wish I had known this truth when I was still in my 20s. However, this is my adventure NOW and the fact that at 48 years of age I still feel that I have time to recreate my life and continue to improve as a human being and citizen of the world, it’s very encouraging too.

    So I agree with you 100% and encourage your readers–young and not so young 🙂 to let go of the parent attachment and to start or continue to live life on their own terms. It’s hard to believe but at the end of the day, it is indeed the best way to honor them by honoring yourself first.

    Be well,


  8. Hehe, I gave up the need for my parents to understand me a long time ago… but I still feel the need for friends to understand me, so I need to get rid of that neediness. But isn’t that need deeply rooted in our biology? Don’t we need to feel like we’re acknowledged, and that someone knows how we feel?

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