Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Disconnecting From Our Families

Why is it that the most complicated and challenging relationships are with the ones closest to us? I often hear that my clients get along well with co-workers and friends.  In fact, their out-of-family network is healthy and thriving. The story is somewhat different when it comes to the spouse, parents, siblings, and children. Here are some factors that come into play when relating to people closest to us:

1)    Role Play

Chances are if you are having difficulties with your child, it is because you are acting like a parent. When you identify with your role as a mother or a father, you act like what you think a mother or a father should act like. This of course has a lot to do with your upbringing and your own role models. So, it is a bit complicated. I am not a psychologist, so I won’t go there. What I do suggest though is to drop the role.

Listen like you are listening to someone seated next to you on the bus, listen without agenda, listen without judgment, listen like a coach, just listen and you will learn a lot about your child. Then, you’ll know if any action on your part is required. We often take our roles so seriously, and our kids also play into that act. How would you talk to a husband or a sister or a son if they weren’t related to you? Step back and stay objective. See them for who they are outside of their familial connection to you.

2)    Responsibility

Once you’ve dropped the “I am the parent” or “I am the dutiful son” or whatever it is you are identifying with, drop the responsibilities that come with that. I know, this is the most difficult one. We all want to be good parents, spouses, and daughters and sons. This means we want to be responsible for our role as a son, daughter, wife, husband, mother, or father. Furthermore this means, we have to be sensitive, accommodating, caring, generous, available, etc. All of these things deplete us of our sense of self. In other words, we take on our roles seriously, we become responsible for making it better for our family members at the risk of being less responsible for our own well being.

How often have you neglected to keep your own appointments, because you had to take someone else to theirs? When was the last time you skipped your exercise routine or a lunch date with a friend to be there for your family? As I write this, I can sense my own alarm going off! No, please don’t ignore your family so you can hang out with your friends, unless you want to of course! What I am suggesting is that when you become depleted by taking care of others, and being responsible for their well being, you have little left to give. You become resentful, imbalanced, emotional, and unhealthy either physically or mentally.

So, what do you do the next time you are in a situation where someone close to you needs your help? Stay clear and understand what is being asked of you, what you can do, what you want to do, and how it all affects your own well being. Is there some way where you can do both? How can you take care of yourself and be compassionate and helpful to your family? When do you say enough is enough, now I have to take care of me?

At the end of the day, you are only responsible for you. “You” includes all the things that keep you healthy, balanced and happy.

3)    Expectation

When you are playing your role, you also expect your family member to play their respective role. Often times, they don’t. You may act like a good son, taking care of your elderly parent, but they are now acting like a child, what do you do? If you drop your role, you can see more clearly what is going on and make decisions based on the truth of what is happening and not the emotions of being a good son. Dropping the act and not identifying with your role brings clarity to a challenging situation. Once you stop seeing your parent as your parent, and more as an objective person listening to what is being said, you can act objectively. This objectivity reduces drama and stress in your relationships. You can then go into problem solving mode and make more rational choices.

The family members may still have expectations of you, and that is where it might get sticky. With practice, they will understand that you are not going to give in to their demands or drama. It takes clarity of mind to know what is happening and to stay clear of unhealthy attachments no matter how much you may love the person who is demanding your attention.

The same goes for you. In other words, drop your expectations of others. No one owes you a thing. If you want to be a martyr, it is your choice. Whatever it is you do, do it because you want to do it and take full responsibility for your own well being while you are doing it. There is no best parent, husband, or daughter awards. In fact, there might not even be any appreciation for what you are doing. If you are doing it for you, then you won’t care.

If you are having challenges in your close relationships and would like to try out some of the suggestions in this blog post, you may want to consider working with a spiritual life coach. Spiritual life coaching is about learning how to be objective in every situation, especially the most challenging ones. Contact me for a complimentary 30 minute coaching conversation to determine if you’d like to work with a spiritual life coach.


Halil said...

Being able to stand naked requires full confidence on yourself.
Process of releasing the aspects is usually painfull..well, there is an "easy button" too...buttt you know:-))...great article.

Sherry Bakhtian said...

Dear Halil,

Thank you for your comment and you are absolutely right, it is scary being "stripped down" or naked as you said. But there comes a time in your life where you can't show up any other way.