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- How to Recover from a Critical Parent 69.29 views per day
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Category Archives: Relationships
My mother and father are still together after 50 years of marriage. They are good, church going people who are very community minded. They show love by acts of service and are often kind and generous to other people. But the way my critical mother treats my largely passive father is toxic, and I recently took the opportunity to stand up to their behaviour in order to reverse the negative effects it has had on my own life. Here's how it panned out:
Recently my parents and I all attended my maternal aunt's 90th birthday party, along with my maternal cousins, my two older sisters, and all their husbands/wives and families. We spent the weekend in a lovely guest house in the country and since it was a long drive for my aging parents, they asked me to give them a lift there and back. I am a little apprehensive because I know the way my parent's behaviour often triggers me, but I see it as an opportunity to connect with them and spend some additional quality time together.
The two-hour drive to the guest house is relatively uneventful, with occasional friendly chatter and lunch at my parents' favourite cafè on-route.… Continue reading…
I'm a big fan of Brené Brown's TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability. I keep coming back to watch it again every few months, and it never fails to move me each time I do. It reminds me that authenticity, connection and vulnerability are the keys to freedom while guilt, fear, shame and disconnection are the bars of the jail cell in which I've lived so much of my life. If you haven't watched it yet, I highly recommend you watch it now.
And then watch this awesome follow-up titled Listening To Shame where Brené talks about the impact on her life of having the first talk go viral. After telling the conference of her research-induced breakdown (a.k.a. spiritual enlightenment), the video went viral with four million hits on the Internet. She went into a meltdown and didn't leave the house for three days because of a vulnerability hangover. That's the feeling that we get when we reveal something we're ashamed of in front of other people. It's the reason we avoid revealing our true selves to others: we know there's likely to be an unpleasant emotional reaction within us at the thought of other people knowing the parts of us and our story that we don't like.… Continue reading…
Ever had a girl break your heart so badly you thought you'd never recover? Couldn't get her off your mind? Desperate to get her back? Then you might find John's story helpful; and besides, I need to debrief to get this guy out of my system.
I met John in a youth hostel while on a winter road trip up the east coast of Australia in search of warmer weather. He seemed like a decent guy who was always cracking jokes, and before long the two of us were entertaining some of the other backpackers with our stories of adventure and comic irony.
John seemed intrigued when I mentioned that I was a recovering perfectionist, and asked me several times to elaborate about that. I told him the story of how I had a fulfilling engineering career up until the point where I decided I didn't enjoy it any more and decided to change direction. He could relate: John had studied law, and hated every minute of it. Then he'd joined the military, and he'd hated that too. He hated prosecuting people who hadn't done anything wrong, and in general his conscience bothered him a lot. He was from California, which he hated because it was being over-run with Mexicans.… Continue reading…
I'm a big fan of TED talks, and I love the speakers who have the confidence and courage to talk directly from the heart. One of my favorites in Brené Brown's speech The Power Of Vulnerability, which you may have heard me rave about before. Every time I watch this speech, I find it connects me to a deeper to my own feelings of fear and shame around being vulnerable.
I'm still working on overcoming my deeply rooted fear of other people knowing how I'm feeling, and for me this is the essence of vulnerability. Watching this speech moves me to tears and I know that means that I'm healing my own fear and shame around feeling vulnerable in the past, which leaves me feeling more confident for the future. Which is why I keep coming back to this talk every few months for more.
Brene's research into human connection and vulnerability led her to explore the emotions of guilt, and it's rarely discussed cousin: shame.
Connection with others gives purpose and meaning to our lives. It's why we're here. When you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak. When you ask people about connection, they tell you about disconnection.… Continue reading…
I just got this question about resolving an argument with your mother in response to my article on How to Recover From a Controlling Mother. Steve asks:
I just got off the phone with my mother who was berating me because I had not responded in a timely fashion to an email, which made her ashamed and disappointed. I went to my computer and looked up "how to deal with a controlling mother". Your article looked interesting so I began to read it, and as I did my eyes opened up as if you were speaking directly to me! I would love to speak with her about these things, and also with my father, but her defense is locked down tight: she is a psychologist of many years, and would just discredit anything I had to say. She also insists that my father would not want to talk to me about anything on an emotional level (he really doesn't like to be dragged in between us), and therefore I shouldn't bother. I also run the risk of making her angry, which is VERY easy to do, and then I worry that I'm hurting her. Just writing this really exposes to myself the psychological mire I exist in...… Continue reading…
I've been taking a bunch of theatrical improvisation courses lately because it's a really fun, engaging way to increase self-confidence. There's a part of me that loves being on stage, without the old inhibitions that used to get in the way of everyday life. The skills involved in theatrical improvisation, also known as Comedy Improvisation or Improv, turn out to be essential life skills, especially when it comes to interacting confidently with other people.
Much of what I've learned in Improv class reverses a lot of what I learned about how to act while growing up. Many of us have huge chunks of our creativity, and our true personality, beaten out of us in the education and socialization process while we were young. We got punished for failure, bullied for being different, and ridiculed when we got things wrong. So we learned to play it small, avoid risks, and generally keep our head down to avoid getting kicked. It was a conservative survival strategy that worked at the time, but doesn't work so well in the adult world.
Theatrical improvisation, on the other hand, teaches us how to:
- Fail brilliantly.
- Say "Yes" to opportunities.
- Take risks.
- Listen to other people.
Here's a story with some relationship advice for you. I took my Dad out to dinner last week as his 79th Birthday gift. He is actively downsizing in preparation for moving into a retirement village with my mother, so I appreciate that the last thing he wants is a physical gift from me. He'd much rather have some quality time together.
Unfortunately we have slightly different definitions of "quality time". As my father droned on and on over dinner telling me story after boring story, I felt myself shutting down and becoming increasingly frustrated and angry with him. He lives in his own little world, oblivious of the effect his words have on other people. I used to wonder why it was that as an adult, I found myself pushed away by his stories all the time and began feeling resentful every time he launched into one. Now I know, and the simple answer has the power to totally transform relationships:
My Dad's stories have no emotional content.
Over the past few years, I've been studying the broad spectrum of human communication. Here are some of the things I've learned from the various different fields I've studied:
To be a powerful public speaker, you must tell stories that engage your audience's emotions.
Harry Chapin's famous song Cats In The Cradle hits me emotionally every time I hear it. Whether it's his original, Cat Steven's even more well-known version, or more recent covers like the one by Ugly Kid Joe, it never fails to strike an emotional chord with me. I've spent the last 3 weeks learning to play it on my guitar, and when I play it myself it's even stronger.
Knowing what I know now, I'd say that my father lacks confidence and that's why he is so reluctant to share his feelings, and hard for other people to connect to. He was my natural role model and for a long time I emulated this too. As a result, I lacked confidence and we both had very little emotional connection.
The song connects me with the pain I still feel in my relationship with my emotionally distant father. Ironically, my father and I have a lot of time for each other and get together on a regular basis; we have even more time together now that he's retired and I'm working for myself. But there's a distance between us that I find painful.
My Dad was always there for me physically as I kid, and I don't ever recall brushing him off because I just wanted to borrow the car keys once he'd taught me how to drive.… Continue reading…
I was blown away by this brilliant book; it totally had me hooked. One of the things that I noticed when talking to Frank the natural was just how brutally honest he was, and that women found this trait very, very attractive. Even if they found him offensive at times, there was something about his disarming honesty that got under their skin. And this book explains what it is, and how to get it.
The author puts the boot straight into the curse of moralism as the cause of our obsessive self-critical thinking and resulting inability to be free to be ourselves, and act instinctively instead of regimentally. He cites two modern-day institutions as prime examples that perpetuate moralism: lawyers and the legal system, and the Catholic church; both of which are rich sources of clients in his psychotherapy practice. By pushing doctrines and sets of rules about what's right and wrong, and how people should behave, these institutions and others like them enslave people to black-and-white thinking that goes against the inherent contradictions of life as a human being.
The result is that we end up stuck in our head, beating ourselves up over natural behavior and trying to work out analytically what behavior we think is right, rather than actually living authentically.… Continue reading…