Monday, June 20, 2016

Neurotic, Controlling, Narcissistic Mother Mistreats Her Child (Hands in Supermarket Example)


Recently, I was shopping at a local supermarket when suddenly I heard an annoying voice of an annoyed woman. It was a mother scolding her 5-6 year old child for picking up items and inspecting them.

“How many times did I tell you that your hands should only be in two places,” she muttered in that condescending, pretentious, pseudo-reasonable tone. Which means, “Look, I’m clearly feeling extremely upset and neurotic but I can’t just blatantly lash out on you or physically assault you because it’s a public place, so I will use an authoritative and relatively calm tone filled with manipulation, impatience, intimidation, and humiliation to make you obey, which will both in the short term alleviate my emotional instability and ostensibly mask my poor parenting skills.”

“What are those [two places you should keep your hands in]? In your pockets or…”
“…behind your back!” finished the boy and put his hands behind his back.

“Very good!” she said in a condescending and approving manner. Which means, “Here’s a mental treat for compliance to my insane rules and my authority.” It sounded like somebody who praises a dog after he follows the owners command: “Good Boy! Very good! Here’s a treat!” Conditioning in action.

The boy started “to behave,” i.e., started following orders, so the mother felt calmer. She pushed the shopping cart forward while the boy followed her like a mutt she perceives him as.

So what did the boy learn? He learned that his mother is bigger, stronger, and at the same time vital for his survival and well-being, so he has to obey her regardless of what she says or wants.

What did we learn? We learned that in this parent-child relationship the child’s curiosity, exploration, and self-interest is punished—while obedience and meeting the parent’s needs is rewarded and necessary.

Those who follow my work know that I’ve talked quite a few times about the results of such methods of child-rearing. So if this continues—and it may very well be too late for this child already—I can predict that when he grows older, he will have no respect for his mother. And rightfully so because, one, she is doesn’t treat him with respect, and two, objectively she is not respectable. The lack of respect will either manifest itself directly by what will be perceived as “rebellious behavior,” or he will be an obedient, totally self-less, dependent pet whose reason for existence is to manage the Mother’s neurosis and take care of her.

Some may think, “Well, what a parent is supposed to do? The child is annoying, he picks up stuff he shouldn’t, I’m in a hurry, I’m stressed, etc.” Okay. But this is not about you. If you have a child, it’s your responsibility to meet the child’s needs. It’s not the child’s responsibility to meet your needs or be what you want them to be or not to be an inconvenience to you.

If you are actually interested in how to improve such situations, here’s a few suggestions. How about taking time to explain to the child why you think it is objectively bad to pick up stuff at a supermarket. Is it bad? Or is it that you don’t want that because it’s an inconvenience to you? If it is bad, for example, your child is stealing or making a mess, then instead of giving him orders and punishing him you could dedicate some time to talk about what is going on for him emotionally (maybe he’s stressed or deprived or depressed or lonely), to talk about morality (what is objectively bad, what is objectively good, what is morally neutral), talking about property rights (e.g., it’s not good to make a mess at somebody’s property), giving sound and understandable examples, and so on. If picking up stuff at a supermarket is not morally bad (spoiler: generally, it isn’t) and the child is simply curious or bored, then you can go shopping without them. “But it's not as convenient and requires more time, effort, and other resources.” Okay, it’s true. Does it mean you are going to traumatize your child further to maintain your convenience? If so, then don’t pretend to be interested in real solutions.

What is always useful to do regardless of the situation is to examine your own feelings, and perhaps you will recognize that your emotional state has little to do with your child and more with your past, your insecurities, and your false beliefs. It is also useful to explain to your child the principles you expect the child to follow and follow yourself. “I don’t like it” or “You should do this” or “It’s not nice” are neither explanations nor principles.

The best way to be a better parent is to be a better human being. The best way to be a better human being is to work on yourself. But this is not very convenient nor appealing, hence the crippling of children in order to stay comfortable. It doesn’t have to be this way, but it probably will be for a long time yet.

So cheers to those who are brave enough to change and grow into healthier and happier human beings!

Exposing child abuse one article at a time,
Darius

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Healing Starts Where (Self-)Connection Begins

Practice listening to yourself and meaning-making.

This is a quick article on the topic of self-connection. Here, I will talk about the importance of self-connection, the origins and difficulties of (self-)disconnection, and the cultivation of self-validation and individuality.

The Origins and Results of Disconnection

When we are children, we often are invalidated, mistreated, rejected, frightened, manipulated, confused, and abused in a thousand other ways. To avoid all of that and survive in our toxic and dangerous environment, we learn to adapt to it by disconnecting from it—and, fundamentally, from ourselves. Then we grow up, and those survival and defense mechanisms carry into our adulthood and manifest themselves in the same or similar forms. Except now, being in a completely different habitat, they are not protecting us but hinder our growth and lead to numerous problematic, even unhealthy situations, behaviors, and moods.

Being disconnected from yourself leads to reality distortion, overreaction, unhealthy boundaries, acting out, psychological projection, dangerous situations, dissatisfying relationships, social anxiety, poor self-care, depression, and a myriad of other issues—which, by extension, leads to even more issues. To categorize them for a better understanding, some of the more prevalent examples on a psychological-intellectual level are phenomena like dissociation, splitting, reality distortion; on an emotional level it can be self-hate, depression, helplessness, emotional oversensitivity or numbness, projected anger; and on a physical-behavioral level it’s acting out, (self-)harm, addiction, lack of self-care, (self-)destruction—all of which is interrelated.

The Value of Self-Connection

When we start examining our life, recognizing our feelings and accepting them at face value, building a healthier sense of self-esteem, thinking for ourselves, accepting who we are, self-validating our past experiences, then we develop a stronger bond with ourselves—and, by extension, with reality and with other people. This leads to more awareness, more self-love, more inner peace, less anxiety, more self-confidence, a more accurate estimation of ourselves and others, healthier boundaries, more creativity, more intellectual, emotional, and psychological clarity, and more happiness in general.

The Difficulties of Self-Connection

When we are just starting our healing and growth process, we usually are quite lost, confused, anxious, lonely, and in pain. Since at that time we are severely disconnected from ourselves, we crave for validation from others—because, as of yet, we don’t know how to validate ourselves, or simply don’t connect with our understandings on a psychoemotional level. The problem is that people who are disconnected—which is the vast majority of our population—by definition, are doubtful (or falsely certain) and confused about their thoughts and feelings, therefore are dependent on other people’s beliefs about them and about the world in general. This leads to dependency, tribalism and conformism, mass delusion, lack of true identity, exploitation, manipulation, or even to a physical death.

The most common things people mention they get from me—both from consulting with me, and from my articles and videos—are clarity and validation. I help people make a better sense of the world, be it their internal world or the external universe. I also validate a person’s accurate perception of it which they can't get from themselves. I provide much more, but true clarity and validation are two most popular things people give me as a part of their feedback about my work. I did an enormous amount of self-work to be able to be who I am and help people to the degree I do, so it didn’t just magically happen either.

However, when you need external validation and clarity but people around you are toxic, primitive, or plainly insane, it’s extremely difficult to build your sense of self-connection. It only strengthens your self-doubt and self-erasure. Moreover, even if you decide to seek help you may quickly realize that the dominant majority of the mental health providers themselves are highly unresolved, confused, clueless, mediocre, extremely limited, or simply dangerous. And that’s the realization only if you already have a healthy enough basis to be able to recognize unhealthiness and incompetence. Most people are not so lucky and it takes them years to find somebody who can actually help. Many never find anyone and die lost, confused, scared, and lonely—sometimes without even knowing it. And that’s a dismal actuality.

Learning Self-Validation and Individuality

For the reasons mentioned above, external validation and relying on other people can only get you so far, and sometimes it will only confuse you, mislead you, or foster dependency. If you want to truly heal and realize your full potential your ultimate goal should be a strong sense of self and psychological independence. You may want to work more on building a greater sense of self: learning about logic, argumentation, emotional intelligence, journaling, healthy boundaries, being in solitude, listening to yourself, practicing self-empathy and self-curiosity, conceptualizing reality, making sense of what happened to you and your own past behavior, and developing and applying other tools I call Tools for Self-Archeology. If you haven’t found a good helper yet, it will help you differentiate between excellent and bad ones. And if you have one or not looking for one, it will make the whole growth process easier and more efficient. Again, the ultimate goal is psychoemotional independence, clarity, and a strong sense of identity, which only comes from self-connection and the ability to eventually being able to figure out and validate things for yourself without being confused or intimidated by the world's dysfunction.

These and many other topics are explored in great detail in my upcoming book—more details coming soon—and in my previous articles and videos. You are always welcome to leave your feedback in the comment section below or by other means of your preference.

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

"I Yell at My Children, and They Will Turn out Fine!"


This article is a response to an old, yet very pertinent comment regarding childhood trauma and its effects.

About three years ago, I wrote an article called Child Abuse and Its Results in Today's Society. Some time after, a person named Lisa left this public comment:

I didn't publish it at the time for relatively obvious reasons, and then completely forgot about it. But yesterday I was looking at all the unapproved comments, saw it, and thought it could be useful to comment on it. This is a rhetorical response only; I'm not actually addressing Lisa personally. I've met and observed many people who say and do similar things, and who have a similar personality and communication methods. I'm simply using this comment as a background context—an example, or a vehicle, if you will—to talk about a bigger, highly common issue that is childhood trauma. Now, disclaimer aside, let's get to it.

Not that I do not agree with any of this, but as a parent (and someone abused badly as a child--in most all ways), I can say some of it is ridiculous. It's confusing right from the beginning: so they agree with everything, yet think some of it is ridiculous. Okay...? I am sorry. Why are they sorry, exactly? For shattering my false perception of reality when I wasn't prepared for it? This didn't happen in any way. For disagreeing? That's not an offence. And they just said that they agree with everything anyway. Again, confusing (more on that later).

Parents sometimes yell at their children. Fact. Does it imply it's in any way justifiable to do so, though? If so, then that statement would be false. Also, does 'parents' mean 'I'? Because not all parents yell at their children, but Lisa definitely does. They get punished and disciplined as the situation dictates [...] The situation can't dictate anything because it's an inanimate, abstract thing; and children don't get punished by themselves—somebody punishes them. Sometimes people attribute human-like characteristics to inanimate objects or concepts and use passive voice to avoid self-responsibility. What is actually happening is that some parents sometimes abuse their children because they think the child deserves it. Because they themselves were punished, and they think they deserved it. Because they were told they deserve it.

[...] and ALWAYS mine know why. Letting somebody know why you are hurting them doesn't justify your actions in any way or make the hurt less damaging. It actually makes the experience MORE confusing and psychologically crippling for the child. Because if you know you don't deserve unjust treatment then it still hurts but at least it doesn't mess up your psyche as much, since at least you KNOW that you are being treated unfairly versus internalizing the thought that you are a bad human being who deserves punishment when in fact you are not and you don't.

Also, it's not the child's fault. If your child "misbehaves," then it's fundamentally your failure, as a caregiver. Teaching them that it's their fault, that they are bad and deserve punishment, and hurting them when they are completely dependent on you is what builds them into a broken adult.

The world is not going to be always empathetic to ones problems. There is not going to be people around to SOOTH them all their lives...sorry, but that is true. Another artificial and unnecessary apology.... It is definitely true that the world, as it is today, is quite an atrocious mess, at least as far as the social aspect of it goes. It's also true that a child won't always have somebody to sooth them, especially when they grow up. HOWEVER, it doesn't follow at all that because the world in some aspects is a horrible place it is okay/justifiable/moral/effective—pick the least triggering word—to abuse and traumatize your child. The world is horrible, so I, the caregiver, the person on whom depends your survival and who suppose to be your guide, teacher, helper, and protector, might as well just abuse you because you need to get used to misery, horror, confusion, fear, and chronic anxiety. Well, thanks a lot, mom/dad! How about instead of THIS you work on yourself more, become a better role model and a more effective caregiver, and raise an at least relatively healthy and independent offspring who can survive and function in this world without having lost their authenticity or having a myriad of deep, everlasting problems?

No, if my kid has a slight scrape I won't over indulge them (they are 10, 12, and 15) as they must learn to do it for themselves too. A lot of people confuse a lack of abuse with a lack of boundaries, or think that the opposite of abuse is doing everything, healthy and unhealthy, the child ever wants. It's not so black and white; it depends on the situation and a child's age.

Also, are you teaching them? Are you guiding, helping, and providing them with necessary tools when they need it? Are you getting out of the way and trusting them when they don't need your assistance and interference?  Or are you just expecting for them to learn how to do things by themselves (preferably in their first try and without any theoretical preparation)? Do you think—and let them know—they are somehow bad if they "fail"? Do you punish them for such "failure"? The second type of child rearing is definitely more popular than the first, but by no means it's more efficient or superior in any way.

I am not abusive but, as most parents will admit, I am not perfect. Factually, if you yell at your child you are abusive. It's not the same as severely and routinely beating a child with a stick or raping them, but it's still abusive. It's abusive because it has negative effects on the child's development. The fact that a person doesn't have a clear understanding what constitutes abuse or rationalize their abusive behavior doesn't change reality in any way. Yelling is abusive because it threatens a child-parent bond, on which, again, depends a child's survival. So when this bond is threatened in any way, a child feels that their survival is in danger. Fear instils insecurity, and also teaches to deal with a conflict in a domination or submission type of way instead of a healthier way. A child can't defend themselves, nor can they escape. All of this (and more) makes it traumatizing, hence abusive.

Yelling is only one form of abuse, a more recognizable one, too. Being an unresolved, confused, untrustworthy, unprincipled, unrespectable caregiver is abusive in itself, in many different, often very subtle ways.

Also, saying that you are not perfect is a painfully common justification for bad behavior. Nobody is perfect at anything. Perfection, by definition, is an unattainable standard. Making mistakes is normal and unavoidable, and there's always at least some room for improvement. However, does it mean that we should have NO standards at all and accept NO responsibility for our actions? I would say it's not true. Also, often a caregiver who uses the I'm Not Perfect excuse doesn't apply the same standard to their child's behavior. This is not fair nor respectable (more on that later).

But, the world is not an empathetic place...by and large...they should not have to learn that the hard way. So why are you teaching them that lesson in the hardest and most destructive way possible? By doing what you are doing you are harming them in ways they will never be harmed as adults. A human being will never be as helpless, dependent, and resourceless as they are as a child.

I do not beat, neglect, nor have scared my kids the way I have been. Seeing as I was abused, I do make en effort to do the best I can to not repeat. First, it's admirable that Lisa in some ways was able to become a better parent than her own parents. It's also quite brave to accept that your parents traumatized you—we all have some traumas, but only a few are emotionally strong enough to recognize that. That said, it doesn't negate all the other ways in which Lisa was unable to improve (at least not yet). It's definitely plausible that a caregiver doesn't beat their child or doesn't leave them on the street to die, or successfully provide food and shelter. But these are very basic human needs, and failures to meet them are very clear forms of abuse.

Talking about less evident forms of abuse, sometimes a caregiver doesn't BEAT their child; they just "spank them"—but only when "they deserve it." Sometimes a caregiver doesn't NEGLECT their child; they just force them to do a task without teaching them how to do it and then punish them for being "bad" and "stupid," or just withdraw attention and loving behavior if a child doesn't comply or "misbehaves" in any way. Sometimes a parent doesn't ABANDON their child or THREATEN ABANDONMENT; they just leave to work for a long time, or drop them in daycare, or say that they will leave the child on the street and go home if the child doesn't do what they want them to do.

That's my point: It's important to understand what constitutes child abuse, and heal from it. Otherwise you will justify and normalize harmful behavior, and will inflict it on your own children.

I agree everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect [...] Well, de facto she doesn't believe that.

[...] people piss people off ...and one should be able to correct a wrong and be heard [...] Yes, sometimes some people piss other people off. Although sometimes it's more complex than just "this person was mean to me." I've observed a lot of people who act out on others and treat them unjustly. But I also have seen many—if not more—interactions where it's not so simple, and a person gets too pissed off, or because the situation reminds them of something from their past. It's very popular to say, "That's offensive!" Or, "You hurt me!" Meaning, "When you said or did this, I felt an unpleasant emotion, and it's your fault!" But this does not necessarily mean that Person A actually did anything to hurt Person B.

In a caregiver-child relationship, again, it's not the child's fault if the child "misbehaves." It's the caregiver's responsibility to teach the child how to be a healthy and authentic human being (often it constitutes simply getting out of the way and letting them be who they are), and to help them in dealing with physical and mental struggles that come with it.

[...] if yelling is needed to be heard...so be it! Yelling is a desperate attempt to dominate another person when you feel threatened, or to act out your emotions in a primitive way because you feel overwhelmed. It's interesting how Lisa ends her comment with an exclamation mark, too.

Yelling in an interaction with an adult doesn't improve your communication or your relationship in any way. Yelling at your children scares them when they are small, and makes them lose respect for you when they are older. It also teaches them to yell and over-impose yourself onto others when there's a clash of opinions, interests, or preferences—or to be afraid of and submit to somebody who's yelling. Yelling is not "treating others with dignity and respect.Moreover, is it allowed for your children to yell? After all, "yelling is needed to be heard." Do you listen to them when they yell?

In my experience, often the communication improves when a person stops yelling and starts listening to what the other person is saying (explicitly and implicitly). Also, when a caregiver doesn't listen to their child, doesn't interact with them with empathy and curiosity, then they, guess what, don't learn—or they unlearn—how to listen and how to be empathetic and curious.

Conclusion

So even when Lisa thinks she did overcome her childhood trauma (and to some degree she probably did become a better parent than her parents), fundamentally she is replicating the same behavior that was modelled for her when she was a child.

Lisa, you yell because you want to dominate, because you yourself were dominated and controlled, and you are replicating the same dynamic with your children, and they probably will do the same. You yell because you don't know how to express yourself in a sound, reasonable, and understandable manner. You yell because you want for others to agree with you and do what you want them to do. You don't know how to explain things. You don't make much sense. Your thinking is unclear. You are confused. Your comment is incoherent, scattered, contradictory, and unreasoned (double negatives, convoluted sentence structure, unnecessary, fake apologies, numerous contradictions, over-emotionality, lack of clarity, lack of argument, avoidance of self-responsibility, justifications, etc.). And when a person doesn't make much sense, can't reason, and can't convey an argument, they can't understand things and explain the world to their children—or to other people in general. So out of frustration, confusion, and insecurity they yell, babble, and try to dominate.

The question is WHY doesn't you child listen to you? What does 'listening' mean here? Does it mean 'doing what you want them to do'? Does it simply mean 'comprehending what others are saying'? Are you making sense? Do you actually have arguments and explanations for things, or do you simply expect for your child to obey? If so, why is that the expectation? Why should or shouldn't they do what you want them to do? Can you explain your reasons to them in a sound manner? Do you even know those reasons, and do they actually make sense? Can you explain things to yourself? What does this behavior teach your child? Why doesn't your child respect you? Could it be that in some regards you lack respectable qualities or disrespect your child and others? Do you listen to your child? Do you show empathy and curiosity? Do you respect them? What does 'respect' mean? Do you model the behavior you want for them to internalize? How do you know that the behavior you are modelling for them or expecting from them is 'good'? Where and how did you learn all of this? How did you feel as a child when people yelled at you, disrespected you, or told you what to do?

These are just some of the questions that caregivers could ask themselves. Answering them in an honest manner could help you gain more clarity and possibly improve your relationship with yourself, your child, and others.

An alternative to abuse, domination, chronic anxiety, and confusion is sound thinking, psychoemotional maturity, mental clarity, respectable behavior, and healthy relationships. Break the cycle.

Darius

P.S. It's always interesting to comment on such issues, because there's always a person (or fifty) who reads it and maybe agrees with some things but feels mentally threatened by other things, and since I'm the one saying it, they get upset at me. As if I, Darius, am essentially important to the validity of my arguments and observations, or as if interacting with me will change the reality I'm describing in any way. It's either true or false.

Negative reactions to my content is nothing new—it's the Internet, so you can't win; I've dealt with it many a time. But if you read some of my articles or watched some of my videos and felt upset, perhaps instead of sending me an angry email saying I am a moron who knows nothing about anything or giving some other incoherent response you could ask yourself how you feel and why—and then honestly answer it. More likely than not it either has nothing to do with me, or people misunderstand something, or read something in an aggressive tone, or it's simply that the things I point out are true and it's mentally uncomfortable. As a result, a person feels an urge to silence me or deal with me (as if it changes reality) instead of dealing with the real issue. Think about theses things some more, build arguments, observe, study, reflect, analyze, conceptualize. That way even if you disagree with somebody about something at least you would know why or have a decent argument.

Either way, you are always welcome to leave your feedback in the comment section below or by other means of your preference.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Q&A: "Is Therapy Working for Me?"


This article is the second entry in my Q&A series, where I answer a question or respond to a comment. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here: “Should I Talk to My Parents About My Childhood Hurts?”

Question
Today’s question is extremely popular: I’m in therapy, and some people [my spouse, or parent, or friend, or coworker, or partner] say that it’s not working for me. I’m confused. Is it true?

Answer
Although it can be nuanced, generally there are only two possibilities: it’s either true or false. Everyone’s situation is different, so you need some objective criteria to be able to figure out your own case.

First, it’s worth noting that the vast majority of people working in the mental health and helping field are not very good at their job, and not necessarily out of malevolence. They themselves are highly unresolved, lack true skill and actual knowledge (formal “education” is barely anything), and sometimes are even more traumatized than their clients. So statistically it’s highly unlikely that your helper* is exceptionally good, although it’s possible. That said, most people are not looking for an exceptionally good helper, nor do they know how to recognize one. They want—or are capable—to work on themselves just to a certain degree. Usually they don’t want to go to great lengths, even if they say they do. And for that reason, a common helper can be sufficient for them. It depends on one’s goals and situation. Which brings us to the next point….

How do you know if the person you are seeing is actually helpful, and how would you measure you progress/regress? At the very beginning of the therapeutic relationship, the helper usually asks the client what do they want to achieve. Also, people who seek help either already know or get informed by their helper that sometimes things have to get worse for them to get better. If you’re unsure, you can talk about it with your helper in greater detail. They may ask you how do you know if things are getting better or worse, and you can ask them the same question. Such a discussion may give you more clarity, and help you figure out if your helper knows what they are doing. I talk about it a little bit in the FAQ section on my website, too.

Either way, it is always useful to ask yourself these questions: How do I know if I’m making progress? How will I know if I have achieved my goals? What exactly are my goals? What is my plan? How long will it take me? What are the smaller steps? And so on….

Try to be clear and specific; saying that you want, for example, freedom, inner peace, or better relationships sounds nice, but doesn’t describe anything concrete. How would you know if you have achieved what you want, or if you are moving in the right direction? Same with saying that you feel good or bad. “Feeling good” doesn’t necessarily mean you are improving, just like “feeling bad” doesn’t necessarily mean you are regressing.

Another highly important thing is the fact that when a person starts actually growing, their relationships change. More often than not people don’t have healthy boundaries and the underlying dynamics are quite problematic. When your healing process starts to develop, your behavior changes, your psychoemotional state changes, your social interactions change. As a result of that, some people around you may not like the changes. Especially those who are used to—or even dependent on—the old ways, where you were manipulated and controlled, or felt inferior. So if you, for example, were obedient, people-pleasing, non-expressive, and non-confrontational, then becoming more authentic and upstanding can result in a clash of interests and expectations. Since you are no longer interested in giving them what whey want at any cost, since now your thoughts, emotions, and wants matter too, they may perceive it as you acting badly, even aggressively towards them. Therefore, they may say that therapy is not helping you. After all, you were so “nice” and “good” and “helpful,” but now you’re so “mean,” “rebellious,” “confrontational,” “insensitive,” “selfish.” In this case, your increasing level of healthiness is perceived as something abnormal and unacceptable. As a reaction to your “aggression,” they may increase their level of manipulation, and the level of actual aggression on their part may escalate to more intense stages. So keep this in mind, and be prepared to re-evaluate such relationships if you haven’t already.

So in short, instead of recognizing your improvement, people like that may get upset with you and tell you that therapy is not working for you, because in their eyes you have changed for the worse—which objectively is not true. It’s just that it doesn’t suit them anymore, so they are upset.

Conclusion
As always, every situation is different, but it is definitely useful to figure out the criteria for evaluating the level of your therapeutic progress. Talk about it with your helper, if necessary. How do you measure your growth? How do you know if you are improving or not? How long does this process take? What are your therapeutic goals? What are the stepping stones? How much progress did you make already, if any? What are the signs of a healthy human being? What are the signs of unhealthiness and dysfunction? Which of them apply to you? How could you become healthier? What is your relationship with the person who says you are doing worse? What is your mutual history? What is your role in this relationship, if any? Is this relationship healthy? What are the signs of a healthy relationship? How does a toxic relationship look like? How do you know?

After you find the answers to those and other questions, you will have more clarity about what is actually going on.

Good luck!
Darius

*In my works I use the term 'helper' to refer to anybody who works in the mental health and helping field. It includes psychotherapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, consultants, social workers, coaches, mentors, and many more.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Q&A: "Should I Talk to My Parents About My Childhood Hurts?"

This is the first entry in the new series, "Self-Archeology Q&A," where I answer a question or respond to a comment. The first question I want to tackle today is a very common one. I’ve gotten this question from a substantial amount of people, and I have observed many struggling with it, so I will share my thoughts on it in a form of a structured article in hope that it will be useful to more people.

Question:
Should I, as an adult, talk to my caregiver* about my hurtful and otherwise problematic childhood experiences?

Answer:
First, it is worth noting that the question itself is formulated incorrectly—not from a grammatical but from a psychological perspective. The word 'should,' by definition, indicates an obligation, a lack of choice. You are not obligated to talk to your caregivers about anything, nor you are forced to do so. You can if you want to—but there is no should here. I’m not going to talk about the argument why this is the case in great detail here, but there are very few SHOULDs in life, and this is not one of them. In short, you are not responsible for your caregiver, you don’t need them to survive anymore, and you don’t owe them anything. Actually, one example of a moral SHOULD would be meeting your child’s needs, which is a caregiver’s responsibility, even though in way too many people’s minds a role-reversal has happened when a person was still a child—which is exactly what is happening here psychologically.

When I bring these points up, people usually gain a more realistic perspective, and with that more clarity. Although sometimes some still try to manipulate their language by using different words to imply they actually don’t have choice—even when on an intellectual level they just accepted that they do have a choice and that there is no obligation. That’s how deeply ingrained in one’s psyche such beliefs are. If a person feels they should do something in regard to their caregiver, usually that’s a big—if not the root—problem in itself they may want to work on separately and in great depth.

Now, lets talk about the second and main part of the question: should I talk to my caregiver about my childhood hurts, about their inadequate caregiving, and other problems that were prevalent in the relationship? Well, again, the word 'should' doesn’t make sense here. If we change it into something more appropriate, like, "Would it be beneficial to...?", then the answer is a little bit more evident.

When somebody asks me such a question, my response is: I don’t know; it depends. Should I buy a combine harvester? Well, I don’t know—it depends on your situation. Why are you thinking about buying one? What will you do with it? What kind are you looking for? What’s your end-goal?

So the questions that may arise now regarding a potential conversation with your caregiver are: Why do you want to talk to them? What are your motivations? What exactly do you want to talk about? What do you want to say to them and for what purpose? What are you trying to achieve here in general? After you explore those questions honestly and in depth, you will have your answer.

But to give a more general answer, usually there are a few more legitimate and some less healthy reasons why a person wants to have such a conversation with their caregiver. Let’s start with the less healthy motivations. One, a person still has a strong psychoemotional dependency on their caregiver and deep down wants a loving, ideal parent. So, in their mind, they need their caregiver to understand how they wronged them, for the purpose of having a fulfilling relationship.

Two, a person wants to “save” their caregiver by “helping” them realize the truth and make them better. Again, role-reversal, Stockholm syndrome, dependency, and a fantasy of a wonderful parent. There possibly are more reasons that fit in this category, but most of them are related to denial of, or inability to, fully accept the truth about their relationship, both past and present. It’s an unfortunate, dependency-based dynamic, where a person feels they need comfort, attention, and understanding from the very person who hurt them in numerous painful ways.

Two main, more positive reasons for having such a conversation with your caregiver could be the following. One, a person wants to gather factual information about their childhood and about their caregiver for personal growth purposes. By talking to your caregiver about your childhood you can get information that wasn’t accessible to you before or that you forgot. So you may get some facts about your childhood environment and about your caregiver’s life at that time. Additionally, it may provide you psychological information about your caregiver. Meaning if you are attentively listening and analyzing what is said and how your caregiver is interacting with you in this very moment, you may get a more realistic perspective about how they are as a person, and possibly how they were when you were a child. Something to keep in mind, though, is that the information they would provide is based on their ability to accurately recollect and process their experiences and on their level of honesty and courage. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they will lie about everything or will try to manipulate you every step of the way, but not everything you gather may be 100 percent truth or valid. Stay aware and analytical.

Reason number two is more clarity. When they just start exploring their relationship with their caregiver, people—possibly without exceptions—feel very confused or at least somewhat unsure about it and its future. The very question you raise shows indecisiveness. Talking about it can provide you with more experiences, which, ideally, converts into more information and a more realistic perception of the situation. Often people are afraid that the conversation may reveal that the relationship is very unhealthy or that there is no hope for the future. Others are scared of their caregiver’s reaction, which in itself tells a lot about the quality of the relationship. These fears are understandable. At the same time, if the goal is clarity and happiness, not delusion and misery, then one eventually has to accept the reality as it is. It’s not that if you pretend that the relationship is better than it actually is it magically becomes better. So, if your goal is truth and clarity, then gaining more information can help you achieve this goal, even if that information may be emotionally uncomfortable.

Conclusion
At the end of the day, whether you decide to talk to your caregiver about it or not is completely up to you. Some may think, “Just tell me what to do! I read the whole article and you still didn’t tell me should or shouldn’t I talk to my mother about how she was abusive to me when I was a child!” People want quick, direct answers. It doesn’t work like this. I’m not going to tell you what to do. Remember, you’re an adult now. Nobody can tell you what to do. If I—or anybody else—were to tell you what to do, that would be a sign of poor boundaries. Actually, I would kindly suggest you to consider avoiding people who tell others what to do, and to refrain from asking for direct advice. It indicates a lack of self-responsibility—and one of the main goals of personal growth is psychological independence, or individuality. It’s your life; it’s your choices. Other people can only offer their knowledge, their experience, and their perspective. It’s your responsibility to come to your own conclusions and make your own choices.

So, you can try to frame the question differently (Do I want to…?), to ask yourself additional questions (What are my goals? What are my motivations? What exactly do—and don’t—I want to talk about, and why? How do I see the future of our relationship based on what I now about it now?), to explore those questions with a professional if necessary, and to make your own decision. In addition, it is useful to explore your fears, worries, emotional experiences, expectations, realistic predictions, and thoughts related to this. Also, if you decide to have this conversation, preparation helps, too—in other words, acting impulsively probably would be less effective.

Good luck!
Darius

*In my works I usually use the term 'caregiver' to refer to any person (or people) who is (are) mainly responsible for the well-being of the child.
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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Self-Archeological Conversations #3: Black & White Thinking - Podcast

In this episode of Self-Archeological Conversations, Darius and Jackie talk about black and white thinking, its origins, and how it manifests in one's personal and social life. The hosts explore how this psychological phenomenon is related to family roles, to repetition compulsion, and to projection in one's adult life. It is also examined how it is connected to idealization or vilification of perceived heroes, idols, celebrities, enthusiasts, and helpers, to individualism versus tribalism, and to a general lack of a healthier perspective.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

UPDATE: Self-Archeology Forums

I have created an official Self-Archeology forum for people interested in self-knowledge, healing, personal growth, childhood trauma, relationships, and similar things. The forum can be found here: http://selfarcheology.proboards.com/

It is in its very conception, and I'm still testing if there is even enough interest in it. But throughout years I have received requests, and had ideas myself, to create a dedicated forum. So I did, and here it is. It is separated into two main categories: English and Lithuanian. So, you (yes, YOU) are very welcome to join, invite friends or anyone potentially interested, and start participating!

P.S. I also revamped SelfArcheology.com to look much slicker and more modern. Feel free to visit that, too.
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