Beyond Acceptance

Beyond Acceptance

It's Never Too Late to Open Your Heart

By Leonard Felder

March/April 2004

Many of us--including therapists--still hold on to some small sense of grievance about old wounds, even after we've succeeded at achieving a degree of psychological adjustment or emotional health. When it comes to our parents--and what they've allegedly "done" to us--we may have forgiven them, learned to accept them the way they are, and acquired the skill of maintaining a relationship with them that works reasonably well, but still hold in reserve some hard, inner core of resentment. Every interaction raises in us something of the old defensiveness that makes us feel that when we're with them, for all our hard-won maturity and patience, we're playing a kind of role--a little forced, a little false. Now and then, however, we're lucky enough to meet someone who doesn't want to settle for this arrangement, who feels driven to let go of the old emotional baggage and find the kind of freedom and inner integrity that comes with being able to love wholeheartedly, without inner reservation. When such a person is a client of ours, we may be doubly blessed by someone who's not only a pleasure to work with, but a great lesson to us in our own lives.

Donna was such a client. At 46, a well-respected therapist and author, she called to say she wanted some sessions to help improve her painful relationship with her mother, Bernice, 72, an intense and opinionated widow, who, according to Donna, was "a real piece of work."

A week earlier, Bernice had called Donna on her cell…

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