Dr. Kane,My childhood was relatively “normal.” However, my current pregnancy has caused me to review how my parents interacted with me, specifically my mother. I saw her get angry a lot, and I am concerned about doing similar things and isolating my child. Can you provide insight on how to best live with this fear, rather than to live in it?
Pensive and Pregnant
Dear Double P:
I would like to extend to you warm congratulations on the pending birth of your child. It appears from your writing that you may be “living in fear” of repeating the same behavioral patterns parenting your child that occurred during your childhood and adolescent development. It is without doubt that your parenting assisted in shaping how you view the world of today.
First, I would like to affirm your “worst” fears. Yes, in regard to parenting, you will at times initiate behaviors that may appear to be either identical or similar to those you saw in your mother. In your writing, you indicated the following statements:
· My childhood was relatively “normal”
· I saw my mother get angry a lot
· I am concerned about doing similar things and isolating my child
As I was “listening” for language indicating stressors, it appears that your concerns or “questioning” may lie in the areas of:
· How to deal with your anger
· How to avoid isolating your child
· How to be an effective parent (without creating behaviors that may emotionally impact your child)
Although it is desirable to be the “perfect parent,” and in doing so making no errors in 24 hour a day parenting (for 18 years), such desires are truly as unrealistic as they are unattainable. The realities are the following:
· We will model our parents’ behavior as they likewise, modeled their parents’ behavior.
· The modeling of one’s parental behavior will be conscious as well as unconscious.
· Rather than to avoid mistakes (or to deny making mistakes), the initial goal can be to learn from the mistakes while working towards its reduction and ultimate elimination.
· The secondary goal can be consciously replacing the identified behavior or action with “corrected” or new behavior.
Let’s return to the portion of your question regarding “living with fear.” The alternate choice is to “live in fear.” Living in fear can lead to paralyzing feelings of doubt in one’s abilities and lead you to return to the pattern of “old behaviors” that are known and used by the generations of parents before you.
However, you can also choose to “live with fear,” meaning that you will make mistakes, and in this acknowledgment, be able to free yourself from the turmoil that you are creating within the “psychological self.” In doing so, you can achieve for yourself what your parents may have been unable to due to ignorance (that is, lack of knowledge): the ability to embrace your fears. As you embrace these fears, do so with the willingness to forgive “yourself” as you seek to replace old behaviors with new ones.
I would recommend that you consider the utilization of a cognitive behavioral model that I have created. It is entitled “The Five R’s of Relief. It has five distinct stages that pace well together. These include the following:
· Respite- (take) a breath; a time out.
· Reaction- (internalizing) the acceptance and ownership of one’s feelings.
· Reflection- (processing) the integration of one’s thoughts and actions.
· Response- (externalizing) expression or sharing of one’s thoughts/actions.
· Reevaluation- (review) assessment of the outcome and/or impact of one’s actions.
As you prepare yourself for the impending joys and tasks of parenting, I would encourage you to work to view the future with hope and optimism. I urge patience and more importantly,forgiveness for the mistakes that you will no doubt make.
In closing, as you seek to do more, give more and be more for your child, also be willing to extend the same resources of empowerment for the psychological self. Create that safe place for the self that one day will be consciously and unconsciously passed to your child. Seize this very moment!
Faust Part I“Are you in earnest? Seize this very minuteWhat you can do, or dream you can, begin it.Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.Only engage and then the mind grows heatedBegin it and the work will be completed!”
The Visible Man