Relationship Rescue Retreat: Parental Legacy: Nora and Paul

Relationship Rescue Retreat: Parental Legacy: Nora and Paul
Dr. Phil continues his intense workshop with six couples on the verge of divorce.
After the parental legacy exercise, Nora was able to better understand the root of her anger and self-esteem issues, and that she had not dealt with her past. "I realized what kind of a parent I wanted to be to my daughter," she says. "I don't want her to have the same feelings that I had growing up. I try and make sure every day that she does know how much she is loved."

Looking at her past has also helped her improve her marriage. "My father would scream and yell at me when he was mad. My father tended to drink too much, and when he did drink too much, he got abusive. My dad controlled everything from checking the miles on the car to reading my diary. I think I got my controlling ways from my father. The retreat made me realize that my relationship with my father is contaminating my marriage to Paul."

Nora relates her desperation for love and attention from her father to how she feels with Paul. "I've never felt that anyone, including Paul, loved me unconditionally. I always live with the fear that Paul will leave me if I don't act in the right way. I do want to have a better relationship with my father. I just don't know where to start."
Dr. Phil explains that it's important for couples to talk about things like this when they're not fighting. He recommends that Nora sit down and tell Paul exactly what makes her feel vulnerable because of her background with her father. "Because what happened to you was like a psychological burn ... And the good news, is that this relationship you had with your dad is over. The bad news is you're keeping it alive. Because the things that he used to say to you, the things that he used to do, you would talk to yourself about. You still say those things to yourself, don't you?"

"Oh, yeah," agrees Nora.

"You'll never, ever get past that unless and until you say, 'I'm going to take my power back, and I'm going to do what it takes to turn that voice in my head off.' And whatever it takes for you to get closure on that, you're gong to have to identify that and do it," Dr. Phil tells her.
For example, Dr. Phil explains, perhaps Nora needs to write a letter to her father. If that's not sufficient, she may need to give the letter to her father. "Maybe you want to sit down in front of him and make eye contact and say, 'Let me tell you that what you did was not OK and it's over.' You need to figure out what I call the Minimal Effective Response," Dr. Phil tells her.

With tears in her eyes, Nora says, "Everything's so scary. Every one of those."

"Well sure, it's scary," Dr. Phil says. "That's what I mean about taking your power back. You have to decide 'I am a grown woman and I am worth this.' ... You have to figure out: 'What's the least thing I can do that will allow me to get emotional closure on this so I don't have to think about it anymore?' And I know that's scary because he was big and powerful, and you were a scared little girl."

Nora wipes tears from her eyes as Dr. Phil continues, "But you're not a little girl anymore. You're a full grown mother and woman and you owe it to yourself to stand up for you. You owe it to yourself to tell him the truth if that's what you need to do. I don't want you to do something you're not ready to do, but I want you to start thinking about that."
Dr. Phil continues: "And the first thing you've got to do is acknowledge out loud to yourself that what he did was not OK and it will never be OK. Forgiving him doesn't make it OK. You can't continue to just go into an emotional fetal position and put that displaced anger and aggression on your husband. He didn't do that stuff, your father did, but you feel safer taking it out on him, than you do taking it out on your father."

Dr. Phil tells Paul that he should learn what Nora is sensitive about, and make a commitment to act in a way that won't hit those sensitivities.

He reiterates with Nora, "The idea is you've got to figure out what you have to do where you'll say, 'I stood up for myself and I am not a scared little girl anymore.' Will you think about that?"

Nora agrees that she will give it some thought.