Waiting At the Wedding Chapel: The Power of Choice, Them or Me?

My Dear Readers,

     There may come a time when you or others will have the privilege of having your marital vows blessed in the eyes of your family and community.  However there are times when you are under so much pressure that the intended day of joy becomes a nightmare you seek to avoid.

Below is such a story….

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Dear Visible Man,

I am somewhat embarrassed to write to you about my situation.  I would ask that you don’t use my name, as I am concerned about how others, such as my family, friends and church members, will think of me.  I am at my wit’s end, trying to figure out what to do.

My people are from Texas and I was raised as a southern Baptist in a very conservative African-American church. My dilemma is simple and yet complicated. I am engaged to a wonderful man, but we have not yet set a date for the wedding.

There are two men in my life who would want to call themselves my father and my stepfather.  They have both kept tabs on me, pumping up their egos, bragging about my academic and professional successes (I have obtained a PhD degree and work in the corporate world), but neither of them have ever been involved in my life.

Neither of them have done a damn thing for me or spent any time with me.  It is sickening to hear from people in the church how they are so proud of me.  Church members are not aware that both have refused to assist me financially, and it leaves such a bad taste in my mouth that I could vomit.

The problem is that they are feuding over who is going to walk me down the aisle.  Honestly, when I was a teenager, I swore to myself that if I ever got married, I would never have either one of them escort me down the aisle at my wedding.

I love my fiancée.  I have waited long for this blessed day.  Now, because of this, my mother and other female relatives are pressuring me to set a date for the wedding. People in the church are whispering and gossiping regarding the delay.  I haven’t told my fiancée what’s going on; I avoid the subject whenever I can.

I am now questioning whether I really want to get married.  Eloping is clearly out of the question, as it will bring shame on the family.

I am so confused!  I don’t know what to do.  I just want to run away and hide.  Can you help?

Questioning At the Altar, Somewhere in the Pacific Northwest

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Dear Altar Lady,

So now that you have arrived at the crossroads and you have to make a decision, your response is to dump the man you say you love? Who do you choose? Them, or ME?

  • Understanding that others are not always acting in my best interests do I choose what they want?
  • Understanding that it is my wedding, my life and my future, do I choose what I want?
  • Or do I not deal with the stress and simply choose not to marry at all?

It is feasible that others in reading or listening to your words in seeking advice may state the following:

  • Tell them to mind their own business.  It’s your wedding!
  • You are a woman and not a child.  Tell them what you want!
  • Stop letting them push you around!

It’s a trap…nothing more than a trap.  To internalize these ideas would result in you having the same experiences as others—not your own. Your conflict may be derived from the fact that you are seeking to simultaneously address the wishes (and demands) of relatives, church members and yourself, and that’s impossible.

As you are seeking to follow the demands of the larger group (society, community and family), you are drowning out the voice coming from within the psychological self, pleading to listen to what I want. Furthermore, it is your wedding, but you clearly have prioritized their desires before your psychological self, the living being within you.

With some many opposing forces (society, community (in this case, your church) and family) pressuring you, how can one listen to the psychological self?

This is your time for empowerment. It is time for you to step into the Five R’s of Relief:

  • Take a moment for a respite, a time out.  Take a breath.
  • Take ownership of your reactions. Stop running and hiding.
  • Slow the process down.  Reflect on your thoughts and feelings.
  • Consider your options.  Develop your response.
  • Take action.  Reevaluate the impact of your decisions.

Allow the dense fog of confusion to dissipate.  In doing so, you will be able to see clearly.

Young Woman,

Before you choose to slip away and make a decision that may impact you for the rest of your life, please consider the following questions:

  • Are your relatives truly acting in your best interest as they exert the pressure to force you to do what they want you to do?
  • Why are they ignoring your wants?  After all it is your wedding, right?
  • What is their agenda?  Is it possible that they are planning the wedding of their dreams and not yours? Where are your dreams and wishes being highlighted in your wedding?

You may have been raised in the church community, but the vows of matrimony you are about to take will be a contract between you and your spouse, a pact made before God.  The church community and your family may have played a powerful role in your life, but they now must step away and take the rightful role of spectator by sitting down, being quiet and enjoying your ceremony and the following festivities.  However if this is to happen, the “voice of reason” must come from within you.  It must be your words expressing your wants.  Using the ABC model (i.e. advocacy, balance and calmness), consider the following steps:

  • Advocacy– Allow the psychological self its voice.  Let the larger group (society, community and family) know what you want and will insist upon in your wedding.
  • Balance– Find stability in your mind and feelings.  You are the captain of your ship and the master of your destiny.
  • Calmness– Achieve the absence of agitation in feelings and steadiness of mind as you walk down the aisle.

Concluding Words

Young Woman,

In choosing to address the issue of the struggle between your father and stepfather as to who will walk have the honor of walking you down the aisle at your wedding, focus on what your psychological self is saying to you.

Throughout your life, these men have provided you with a gift, that being an accurate picture of themselves.  They have given you nothing more than emotional pain and sorrow.  They have little or nothing for you and yet, have enjoyed the bounty of your success and joys.

As you have spoken about the tradition of the father giving away the bride in matrimony, one must seriously question: what has either of them done to earn that honor?  As the past fades, do not forget what you have achieved without their involvement.

The present is here. Do not allow the grinning smiles and hidden agendas to impact your event.  The future is before you, so grasp it and leave the drama behind.

Hell, it’s your wedding.  You have earned this day.  Walk yourself down the aisle. Let the church community be like sheep, gnawing and gossiping.  Walk with your head up and smile.  Others will understand and return the smile as well.

You once stated

“when I was a teenager, I sworn to myself that if I ever got married, I would never have either one escort me down the aisle at my wedding.”

Let this be your day.  Speak for the psychological self.  Smile. Then “step off” into your future.

The Visible Man

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The Fictional Male Character: Holding Onto Old Stereotypes & Creating New Ones

My Dear Readers,

     There is a thin line between fact and fiction. Fiction is the ability to live life in an imagined world, making it up or changing it to suit the observer.  Fact is the reality of how we live our lives. Television, combined with the human need to not only be close to pain, but to make sense out of life, has succeeded in making the line between fiction and fact thinner.

     I recently had the pleasure of watching the première of a new television series, Murder In The First.  It is a crime drama that takes place in San Francisco involving two police detectives.  In this episode, Inspector Terry English, an African American played by Taye Diggs, is grasping the reality that his wife has stage 4 pancreatic cancer that has invaded her liver and kidneys.

     When his wife is sent home to live out her remaining days, Detective English, unable to stay at home with her, remains at work working to solve a complicated murder case. In one dramatic scene, he tells his female partner, Inspector Hildy Mulligan (played by Kathleen Robertson) the following:

      “I can’t go home and watch her die.  I can’t and won’t do that.”

     This is soon followed by another dramatic scene in which Detective English loses his composure and self-control while interrogating a suspect, resulting in physically assaulting the suspect.   Despite this horrible situation—the pending loss of his wife, the lapse with the suspect—he is backed by a compassionate and enduring cast of fellow officers who do what they can to support their colleague in his most difficult time. 

     The episode concludes with Inspector English at another murder scene, receiving a call on his cell phone that his wife passed away.  As the camera comes in for the close up, you can see the pain and anguish in his facial expression.  Inspector English was true to his word as he followed through on what he said to partner,

      “I can’t go home and watch her die.  I can’t and won’t do that.”

     He did not go home.  She was alone without him when she died.  She died alone.

     We, the audience, are left with a mixture of feelings.  There may be anger that he let her die alone.  There also may be pity or compassion for him and his inability to come to terms with her death and his living on without her.   We are left in awe and looking forward to next week’s episode.

     That was fiction.  It was a story developed by scriptwriters sharing ideas on how the character should look and feel, and how to draw the audience into this emotional turmoil.  As the episode concludes, we know one thing to be true…it’s a fictional story with actors.  No one really died.  It is all make believe.  As the audience, we “feel” for and “connect” with the character of Inspector English, and feel grateful that he has the support that he has, but still, what was explained in the episode was fiction.  However as an individual member of the audience, I am left feeling empty, disappointed. 

     Why? A wonderful opportunity was missed.  Here is the storyline of a African American man, who is about to lose his beloved spouse after a courageous battle fighting cancer.  And yet, the story focuses on his emotional conflicts about and his inability “to watch her die”, leading him to allow his wife to die alone. What? 

     There was an opportunity here to drop the racial stereotypes forced upon African American males.  Instead the script focuses on casting him as a warm, compassionate loving spouse, who is at times a conflicted and emotionally distant, reserved (cold) person who can suddenly explode in fury upon a helpless derelict (being played by a white actor) being held in police custody. 

     Here was an opportunity to move beyond the stereotypes of the conflicted stoic angry black man.  Yet the scriptwriters stay within the perceived stereotypes.  Why?  If the lead actor had been Caucasian, no doubt the script would had:

  • Focused on the actor being with his spouse as she took her last breath.

  • Focused on the calmness and control of the lead actor and not allow him to go savagely violent on a helpless person under police custody.

  • Focused less on tension derived from interactions based on race and more on interactions based on human want and need, such as grief and loss, compassion and nurturing.

     Another opportunity lost.  We really can’t blame the scriptwriters.  In fact, we can’t do without them.  They are only giving us what the viewing audiences want. This is a glimpse of the new and improved version of today’s “acceptable” black man, who is:

  • one who is professional, speaks well and with warmth,

  • but is emotionally conflicted, detached at times, incapable of responding to his own emotions, and

  • capable of exploding at a moment’s notice in savage, violent fury.

     The modern scriptwriters have updated today’s stereotype of the African-American man.  Gone are leading roles depicting black men as flashy, pathologically sexual, uneducated, and drug addicted.  Now they have been replaced by black men who although not flashy, are well educated, professional, and while less focused on the “sexual tension”, there remains the possibility of the character’s temper flaring.  

     This was no simple task for the scriptwriters.  They had to balance the need to have characters that are familiar and understandable by their audience with being sensitive enough to avoid an accusation from the African-American community that the depiction is demeaning.

     So, a makeover was required.  Like the recent updates to comic book characters such as the X-Men and Iron Man, the  scriptwriters have been successful in updating the image of the African-American man, who is now more sophisticated than his earlier stereotyped predecessor.

      Despite this modern improvement, however, the old stereotypes are still visible.  He is still unable to articulate what’s really going on inside him.  As in the old stereotype, the modern black male characters remain psychologically wounded and conflicted when responding to his emotions.  This is an Angry Black man, out of Control (ABC).   

     Instead of being revolted by his fury and uncontrollable wrath in dealing with the suspect, the viewing audience is encouraged to cast their pity upon him due to the loss of his spouse, a loss that he is apparently incapable of shouldering.

     Fictional story with fictional characters; another opportunity missed. The savagery of his anger and his emotional detachment is accepted because it fulfills the stereotype of what is expected from black men.  No doubt that the series will play upon the shame and guilt and the ensuing psychological damage that Inspector English will carry throughout the series for his decision to work versus being there as his wife takes her last breath.

     And yet, there are real black men in the world today that are being ignored (or dismissed).   Men who sit with their spouses, holding their hands, cleaning their bodies and feeding them as they wait for that moment of that last breath.

     That was my story.  My wife Linda, who passed away peacefully at home last year, did not die alone.  In fact, she was true to herself– always thoughtful, waited for me so I could get home and be with her as she went to be with our heavenly Father.

     I have no doubt that there are many Black men in this world who are just like me, loving spouses who until death greets us as well, will have the knowledge and memories of being there, for her final breath.  My Linda and many loving spouses like her did not die alone.

     As I stated earlier, there are many men of diverse ethnic backgrounds who have similar stories to share, but these stories will never be told.  Why? One reason could be the fact that it contradicts the accepted and familiar stereotypes that are necessary to maintain the interest of the viewing audience.

Concluding Words

     So who is to blame here?  The scriptwriters? The media?  Society?  “White folks” would be an easy target—after all, they are the viewing audience, right?  Nope, sorry. To do so would be giving “black folks” a free pass.   The reality is that black people also buy into those old stereotypes and continue to buy into the stereotypes that are being developed today.

     Instead of focusing on blame, let’s focus on responsibility.  Let us focus on the healthy relationships that we want to develop among ourselves.  If the scriptwriters are focusing on what they perceive as be the “needs” of the viewing audience, then it is up to all of us to work at letting go of the stereotypes, focusing on the “real and fact” instead “fantasy and fiction.”

     Of course, this is no light or easy task, and yet it can be the first step of the Journey of Self Discovery.   It can be in that journey, we find out who we really are and what we can truly be.  Truth being, it may not be accomplished in my lifetime however we can chose to “focus on the journey, not the destination.”

 Until the next crossroads…the journey continues.

The Gift of Exposure: The Lesson I Learned on Father’s Day

My Dear Readers,

Father’s Day 2014 has just passed, so I will bid it farewell with what I am about to share.  For many, this a day to celebrate the presence of our beloved paternal parents.  Yet for some, it brings forth the ongoing work of processing the grief and loss for those whose fathers who are no longer among us. 

No one has the right to dictate how one should feel on such an important day.  No one has the right to dictate how long one should grieve the loss of a beloved one. 

However, life is nothing more than a journey.  We can choose to be in the company of those who seek to share the road with us.  Below is such a story.

Dr. Kane

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Dear Visible Man,

My father died six years ago, several days after Father’s Day. As a result, this time of year remains difficult for me as I grieve the loss of my father.  And this year, I am angry with my so-called girlfriends who always invite me to a brunch where they can celebrate their relationships with their fathers.

They are all aware that my father has passed away.  I feel that it is insensitive for them to invite me to celebrate Father’s Day, drinking alcohol, acknowledging their dads and at the same time, ignoring my feelings regarding the death of mine.  When I attended last year, I attempted to speak about my dad and I started to cry.  I was met with silence.  Later on, I was told that I had ruined the celebratory occasion.

All I want is for them to understand my feelings.  Is that asking for too much?  I may cry again, so this year I have decided to not attend the celebration.

Everyone has heard that I’m not coming.  Some have remarked that I’m not being considerate of them.   One of them called me and suggested that for the good of the group, I should put my feelings aside and attend the brunch.

I’ve known them since high school, but it seems that as we have grown older, we have grown apart.  So now the pressure is on.  Do you feel I am being inconsiderate?  If it were you, what would you do?

In Tears, Spokane, WA

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Dear In Tears,

First, please accept my sincere condolences regarding the loss of your father.  Second, keep crying.  Never allow someone else to dictate to you the depth of your feelings.   It is clear that by your continual grieving that you were very close to your father.  It appears from your writing that your friends (and in this case, I use the term “friends” sparingly) appear to view the ongoing expression of grief as a negative impact on the group.

There are those who will view this and may want to suggest to you one of the following:

  • To hell with them!
  • Grow up, woman up and move on!
  • You are a fool.  Stop crying over your father and get on with life.
  • Grow a brain.  Look at what they are doing to you.

These suggestions are not only reactionary and emotional. They are self-serving and create more emotional damage and psychological wounding for you through victim blaming. Given this, how does one respond in a manner that is proactive and healing to the psychological self?

Visualize yourself standing at the “Crossroads.”  In doing so, it is up to you to make a decision in the choices as to which direction to proceed as you continue the Journey of Life.

The goal is to work towards empowerment by listening to the psychological self.  The following model, ABC, can help with this:

  • Advocacy-seek out what you want and what is in your best interest.
  • Balance– finding stability in your mind and feelings
  • Calmness-achievement of an absence of agitation in feelings and steadiness of mind when you are under stress

Relationships-The VETING Model

Relationships can be demanding and emotionally draining.  The more intimate the relationship, the more demanding or emotionally draining it can become.  The VETING model consists of the following components; vulnerability, exposure, trust and the constant state of doing, i.e. “ing”.  The model is as follows:

  • Vulnerability– the willingness to be open to censure or criticism
  • Exposure– the opening of the psychological self to being uncovered or unprotected to censure or criticism
  • Trust-the reliance on and confidence in the actions of another.
  • ING– the constant state or act of “doing”

Both models can assist in creating and defining boundaries that can assist in maintaining self-empowerment in daily relationships.

There are underlying questions by the group, not being asked, but being insinuated:

  • Are you being an emotional drain on the group?
  • Can you come and leave the waterworks and drama at home?
  • It has been six years.  When are you going to get over it?  Isn’t it time to move on?
  • Can’t we just get together and have some fun times?  Laugh and celebrate the past?
  • Can you come and attend, without being a “Debbie Downer”?

I would like to respond to these underlying, unasked and insinuated questions by suggesting the following: Make your responses:

  • About you and not about them.
  • About them and not about you.

ABOUT YOU:

As you indicated, these relationships were formed during high school.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  •  Why am I holding onto to relationships that appear to be insincere and non-supportive?
  • Why am I keeping to the past (relationships) and not allowing myself freedom to move forward to develop new and more meaningful relationships?
  • What am I getting out of sharing my intimate feelings with individuals who appear not to care about my feelings?

ABOUT THEM:

The name Debbie Downer is a slang phrase that refers to someone who frequently adds bad news and negative feelings to a gathering, thus bringing down the mood of everyone around them. That being the situation, consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • Why do they continue to invite me to these gatherings knowing the intensity of my emotions regarding the loss of my father?
  • Why are they unwilling, unable, or incapable of expressing empathy for me?  Especially given the nature of the long-term relationships that have been maintained?
  • What are they getting out of this?

Standing at the Crossroads: Possible Considerations

1)            Understanding (Empathy)– Although understanding of another person’s pain or emotional wounding may be a human goal, at times it may not be attainable.  Here, as indicated in the writing, NONE of the group members have endured the loss of their paternal parent.  Furthermore, the shallowness of their behavior indicates a clear inability to understand the closeness between you and your father or of the depth of your loss.

2)            Past vs. Present– It may be that your friends are holding on to the past as you seek to reside in the present.  It appears you are seeking the opportunity to “honor” the relationship as it stands today, where they are looking to simply recall the exploits of the past.

3)            The “secured self” vs. Debbie Downer labeling– the open expression of your pain and loss lies in direct opposition to the group’s desire to express compassion or work towards developing a comfort zone that would allow the group to better  comprehend what you are feeling.

Concluding Words

Young Woman,

Earlier I suggested that you “visualize yourself standing at the “Crossroads.”  It is for you and you alone to explore and come to terms with what you are seeking and what you are gaining from the friendships within this specific group.  Are these travelers fit to accompany you on your present and future journey?

Using advocacy, balance and calmness; empower yourself as you stand at the crossroads.  The members of this group have given you a very meaningful gift.  It is the gift of exposure.  In their actions, they have shown you the true fullness of themselves.

It is for you to see and accept what is real standing at the crossroads before you.  In doing one, acceptance, or the other, rejection, you will choose the direction of your journey and those who will share the road.

As for your tears, continue to grieve for your father.  Honor him in death as you have honored him in life.  Let no one decide for you how long or deep your grief should be or amount of time it should last.

Our tears reflect the deepness of our feelings for those who are although no longer physically present, yet will always remain within our hearts.

 

“When a person exposes the true self to you, embrace the action and treat it as a gift.”

-Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life

 

The Visible Man

Coming of Age: A Wake Up Call for Parents and Young Adults

My Dear Readers,

     It is that time of year again: graduation time.  Time to move on from high school adolescence to the world of adult expectations.  There is joy in the air.  However, there is also anxiety and fear about what may lie ahead for our soon to become young adults.

     For many, regardless of economic class, entitlement has been the rule, and now, those days may soon be coming to an end.  How will the young adults deal with the change?  More importantly, how will their parents respond?  Will they live in fear, seeking to “save” their children, or reach out and live with fear, letting them go and by doing that, encourage empowerment of both their lives (parents and children?)

Below is such a story….

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Dear Visible Man,

My spouse and I are desperately seeking assistance for our son, who is about to enter the adult world.  Unlike other parents who are happy as their children graduate from high school and move out of the family nest, we fear for his safety.  We fear for what may happen to him as he enters a world that is either openly hostile towards or fearful of him.

We thought we were doing all the right things.  We have been actively involved with cultural activities, history, arts and community and social organizations.  Our son attends a racially and culturally diverse high school.   Being a two income family unit, we are financially comfortable and thus able to afford activities such as extensive travel outside the continental United States.

We are proud of our son’s achievements.  Academically, he has done well.  He is in the college prep section in his school. He plays in the school orchestra.  He has scored high on college entrance exams and he has received offers from prestigious schools.  He is an active member of our church’s youth group.  He has never been involved in drugs, gangs, or unsafe sexual practices.

Many of our friends complain that their children are “entitled.” Our son is no different—he  carries himself with an “air of privilege.”  He wants to argue and debate with those in authority. He has the perception that to do otherwise is to be submissive.

We have taught him to be an independent thinker and advocate for himself.  However, we fear that he does not know when to “shut up” or keep his mouth closed when responding to adult authority. We have been warned by a peer who is a police officer that unless Scotty learns to keep his mouth shut and his opinions to himself he will have problems interacting with the police. My wife and I have repeatedly talked to him and all he seems to do is want to debate the issue of free speech.

We knew this day would come.  During these many years we have repeatedly questioned whether we were doing the right thing. However, those times have passed.  We are frustrated about what lies ahead for him.  Help us save our son.

Frustrated & Frightened,  Seattle WA

Dear Double F:

I can feel your fear as I read your words.  It appears that you now stand at the crossroads of life as you watch your son choose his next direction in his own life. It also appears that you are, with great reluctance, about to join a larger group of parents who are responding to internalized stimuli & stress as their children move closer, step by step to joining the adult world, a world that lies beyond the eyes of parental control.

From your letter, three objectives come to the forefront:

  • Saving your son from an hostile world
  • Saving your son from the police
  • Saving your son from himself


Objective I: Can you save Scotty from a hostile world?

Sorry, no can do.  And even if you could, I would not advise you to interfere with this process.

Scotty has yet to respond to the issue that may be most damaging to his generation, that being the idea that they have a sense of “entitlement.”  This is generally defined as the idea that one has a right to be given something which others believe should be obtained through effort.

Yes, there may be a hostile world awaiting Scotty.  There may be others who believe that the world is “dog-eat-dog,” or that survival is only reserved for the fittest.  However, there is also humanity and compassion within the world.  It is up to Scotty to utilize his own skills in identifying the good, the bad and the ugly.

One model or tool that could be utilized is the I Factor.  This model consists of five components:  inform, involve, integrate, implement and impact.  For example, as Scotty is questioning a specific incident or experience he can use the model to reflect on the following:

  • What is it about the experience that informs (alerts, excite, touch) him?
  •  How can he involve (mix) what he is being informed of with what he has been taught in the past?
  • How does he go about integrating the experience within the psychological self?
  • What actions does he take to implement the experience into his worldview?
  • How does the experience impact his perception or worldview?

The objective is not for Scotty to avoid the hostile world or making mistakes.  The objective, rather, is to learn from the experience of the interaction, turning failures into success and lessons into achievements.

Objective II: Can you save Scotty from the police?

Sorry, no can do.  And even if you could, I would not advise you to interfere with this process.

It is clear that Scotty has benefited from the secure and protected lifestyle that you and your spouse have provided.  However, this too has also provided him with a false sense of security in that he lacks the “learned skills of vigilance” by not having any interaction with members of law enforcement.

Although police officers represent authority, power and control for the larger group (society), they are also individual members of society, and thus, are impacted by the same stereotypes and prejudices that impact others in the group—and that leads to fear.

Fear.  Fear is a powerful emotion.  However, it is simply an emotion.  To maintain “balance” and having the ability to “live with fear,” one can do so by utilizing the skill of “vigilance”.  If empowered, vigilance can become an individual’s best friend.  The skill of vigilance contains five triggers: alone, abandonment, alert, aware and alive.

Since it appears that Scotty lacks that intuitive sense of vigilance, he can be at risk if and when he comes in contact with law enforcement, and may not recognize the triggers when he is faced with them.  Here are some scenarios to be watchful for:

  •  He may not realize that he could be singled out as the instigator, leader or target.  Although in a group, he is alone.
  • He may not be able to depend on those within the group to advocate on his behalf. He may be at risk of being abandoned.
  • He may not have knowledge as to the purpose of the “police stop, frisk, and interrogation” or an understanding of the possible perceptions that the police officer may have of him.  He is not alert.
  • He may not be aware of the physical positioning of the police officers.  He may not recognize the placement of their hands (on weapons) or not be attentive to the tone, mannerism or the direction of the discussion being directed by the police officer.  He is not aware.
  • He may view himself as having the same privileges as his companions.  He may want to deny the authority of the police officers.  He may seek to question, to move or waive his arms/hands or to leave the scene without consent. He is now at risk of being handcuffed, injured and perhaps dying. He is at risk of having a life altering experience.

Scotty is at risk because he does not understand that the police officer has power, authority and control. Using the tools of vigilance, Scotty must want to learn to do the following:

  • Do comply with actions of the police officer.
  • Do follow the instructions of the police officer.
  • Do speak in a respectful tone.
  • Do utilize your skills of observation.
  • Do document the incident and your concerns regarding the behavior in question.
  • Do document the following information: date, time, and location, and license-plate / vehicle identification, number of badge of police officer involved.

The objective for Scotty is not to avoid interaction with the police; rather it is for him to understand how to “balance” his internal stress when he finds himself when interacting with law enforcement.   The intended outcome is to exit the encounter without a traumatic or long term wounding experience.

Objective III: Can we save Scotty from himself?

Sorry, no can do.  And even if you could, I would not advise you to interfere with this process.

It is clear that with your assistance with involving Scotty in cultural activities, history and organizations that he has developed a healthy self and personal identity as an individual.  However, it is also clear that due to his “comfort zone” that Scotty is confused with conceptualizing himself as having being entitled to a specific way of living without having worked or earned the quality of life.

As Scotty continues to interact with the larger group, he will likely get a wakeup call when he  clearly observes a difference in how others may perceive him.  It is understandable that he may as a result become confused, conflicted as he attempts to respond to these perceptions.  How will Scotty handle the ongoing situations as these continue to impact his life?

  • Will he become angry, rejected and bitter?
  • Will he resort to using drugs or alcohol to salve the pain and discomfort?
  • Will he accept the role or place in life that the larger group has defined for him?

Concluding Comments

In all three objectives I have firmly stated the following:

“Sorry, no can do.  And even if you could, I would not advise you to interfere with this process.”

As a psychotherapist, I have made a commitment to focus on empowerment.   The best way to ensure Scotty’s failure and many of those like him is to focus on saving him and not providing opportunities for him (them) to empower himself (themselves).

This may be the biggest mistake that parents can make as they attempt to control the “Walk of Life” their adult children begin as they leave the family residence.  Should you focus on constantly saving him, who will be there to pick up the role of “savior” after you are gone?

The reality is that we cannot stop what may be harboring in someone’s heart and mind.  However, we can empower ourselves on how to respond to another’s irrational beliefs and how we choose to live our lives.  As parents, we can transform ourselves from the role of supervisors, directors and managers of our children’s lives to that of advocates for our adult sons and daughters, providing balance and consultation.

In doing so, we can assist our adult children to become their own best advocates, maintaining balance and calmness as they move forth creating their own individual paths on the walk we call Life.

To be successful, both parties must want to let go, be willing to live with fear (and not in fear) and move towards one‘s own Journey of Self Discovery. In time (and time waits for no one), we will all move on. While we have life, let us focus on the journey and not the destination.

The Visible Man

Sacrificing The Self: Well-Intentioned Parenting and the Wounding of Adult Children

My Dear Readers,

     Many of us are taught from birth that our parents have our best interests at heart.  However, there may be times when our parents voice comments, statements or opinions that, although well intended, are actually harmful and can result in psychological wounds.    

     When such acts occur, there is the tendency for the adult child to walk away scarred and withdrawn.  As much as we have mastered “honoring” our fathers and mothers, there is a heavy cost that both parents and adult children suffer when we focus on the well-meaning intent and ignore the emotional devastation that results as the outcome. 

     Below is such a story.

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Dear Visible Man,

I am a 35-year old African-American woman who is originally from Memphis, TN.  I have been in Seattle for about 9 years, and I’ve had a very successful career– I have my bachelor’s degree in computer science, and an MBA from a well-known school in the South. I’ve worked at multiple prestigious companies, I am a certified and known expert in my field, I’m now running my own business, and I’ve just moved into a lovely new home that really feels like my sanctuary.

The only thing that I do struggle with is my weight. My doctors say that I’m healthy, and I am athletic, playing many different sports. I will never be a slender girl– I’m just not built that way–but I would still like to slim down some.

Recently, I had a phone conversation with my mother, who I’m very close to.  I confided in her that I was having some trouble getting the motivation to work out as hard as I have in the past, and after playfully chiding me about getting back on my routine, she says:

“Yeah, if you don’t lose that weight, you’ll probably never get a man.”

I replied, not taking her seriously: “Bah, whatever, if he doesn’t like me because of my weight, then he wasn’t meant for me anyway. I’ll be okay.”

She then says, bringing up my past boyfriends from YEARS back:

 

“Well, that’s why Robbie and Kelly didn’t want you, and I’m sure you’re bigger now than you were back then.”

It felt like I’d been slapped in the face and punched in the gut at the same time.  I think I sputtered something about how I was big when I was in both of those relationships, and when she reiterated how I just HAD to be bigger now, I told her that I wanted to change the subject.  We did, and struggled through a separate conversation before I made some kind of excuse to get off the phone.

If this wasn’t my mother, I would have cursed her most disgracefully and cut her off completely, like I do with others who offend or otherwise injure me.  I have very advanced defense mechanisms, developed over years in the corporate world.  But, because she’s my mom, I can’t bring myself to be disrespectful to her or to tell her that she’s hurt me because she will think I’m too sensitive.

So, I’ve been avoiding her.  I called my sister and told her about it, and she said yeah, that she heard when my mom said it, and when she hung up the phone, my sister took her to task for it.  She then sent me a funny YouTube video that she knew would cheer me up.

I still don’t want to talk to my mom, because I still feel really vulnerable and I don’t want to get blasted again. I’m not even sure she notices that I’m avoiding her. I’ve meditated and prayed on this, hoping that I won’t still hurt about it, but she basically preyed on my two biggest insecurities at the same time– things she KNEW would hurt me— and I’m not able to “let it go,” as you say in so many of your writings.  I mean, does she really think that I have nothing else to offer besides a slim body? After everything I’ve accomplished?

I’m not sure what to do.  I miss our relationship, even though this only happened 2 weeks ago, and I don’t want this to become a bigger issue, but every time I talk to her now, I’m really stiff and stilted and I don’t want to share what’s really in my heart because I’m afraid of what she’ll say to me.

I’ve written a book here.  Any observations you have will be helpful… thanks. 🙂

Walking Wounded, Seattle, WA

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Dear Walking Wounded,

There is a lot of suffering to digest here.  In my younger days, I remember a television show called Kids Say The Darndest Things hosted by Bill Cosby (1998-2000).  In this show, kids would be showcased making comments that were either funny or at least to be taken lightly.  In essence, the kids, given their age and level of emotional immaturity, were given a “free pass.”

I can imagine those reading this posting may be saying one or more of the following:

  • For Pete’s sake, she’s your mother!
  • You‘re too sensitive, grow a thicker skin!
  • Lighten up!  She didn’t mean anything by it.
  • Come on now!  Really?!  Are you being for real?

All of that is “code” for what is being subconsciously and unconsciously taught by society these days: “Man (or woman) up.” You are being exhorted to be strong enough to take it.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT fall for the trap of once again allowing the psychological self to be sacrificed out of your concern regarding being viewed in a negative way by others or concerned about hurting your mother’s feelings.

Concern about another’s person’s feelings?  How about placing the needs or wants of another and prioritizing over those of yourself? Maintain a tough skin and keep going?  “Sticks and stones will hurt my bones but name calling will never harm me.”

  • Where do all these wonderful concepts come from?
  • And whom do they benefit?

The answer to both questions is simple: the larger group. To restate whom the larger group the “larger group” consists of :

  • The integration and dependency of three sub units working in collaboration.
  • These three sub units are society (at large), community (church, school, and other defined institutions) and family (loosely defined).

The most important piece, which impacts the sub units separately and as a whole, is YOU, the individual member, who in some way or function belongs to each one of the sub units as well as the larger group.  The bottom line is that YOU receive openly communicated messages that it is okay for people known as parents (family) to say negative, uncomfortable or downright nasty things to you under the guise of love, concern and caring feelings towards you. But is it really okay?

You stated:

“If this wasn’t my mother, I would have cursed her most disgracefully and cut her off completely, like I do with others who offend or otherwise injure me.”

 

So, it’s okay for your mother to make disparaging comments about your weight and yet you would not tolerate such behavior from another? Okay, case closed.  So let’s move on.

  1. It’s not working… You can’t move on.  Why? You’re devastated.  You’re emotionally blocked.  As you clearly stated, “I’m not able to let it go.”  So you want to let it go, but you simply can’t do it.  So now you are confused and you don’t know what to do.

The psychological self is talking to you.  Yes, intellectually, your training from the larger group is telling you to move on.  But, the psychological self is telling you…No!

The question is: ARE YOU LISTENING?  The psychological self may be telling you, “I am hurting. I am wounded by my mother’s words.”  Questions arising from within the psychological self may include the following:

  • Are you going to advocate for me?
  • Are you going to bring balance to me?
  • Are you going to transform my state of confusion to one of calmness?

From your writings, it is clear that your mother loves you.  Your mother, in her behavior, continues to combine the roles of mother and parent.  In doing so, there is a clear failure to acknowledge you as an adult member, separate from the family unit.  You are, for all intents and purposes in her eyes, a child– her child—and although her words and behaviors are not intended to harm you, they may come from her living in fear as a parent.   She fears that she will one day die and you still will not have found a loving man to take care of you.

This fear-based behavior is and has been repeated in countless families throughout the world.  It is the clearly the struggle of the parent to let go of the role of parent and transforming to the role of Mother, a support and confidant to the adult, no longer a parent.

The following model is designed to assist parents who are seeking to make the transformation from living IN fear to Living WITH Fear.  In order to do this, we must have the following:

  •  BELIEF– demonstration (through behavior, not words) of the acknowledgement that the individual, although still my child, is an “adult.”
  • FAITH– the desire to accept that despite any fears related to the current situation, that the mother and/or father is secure in knowing that the “adult” will be successful following their death(s)
  •  TRUST-the willingness to accept the decision(s) as to how the “adult” has chosen to live one’s life i.e. “walk one’s journey.”

BFT is a model to assist parents seeking to disengage from the role of parenting (supervising, managing, and directing) the lives of their children who are now adults.  However, let’s return to the REAL issue in this situation, the fact that your psychological self is currently in a state of confusion.

Begin the process of “letting go” of the teachings of the larger group as it relates to acceptance of actions and behaviors of family members simply because of role differences. As you are listening to the psychological self, begin the work of embracing the psychological self.  Assume responsibility for the following roles:

  •  ADVOCACY– Engage in a discussion with your mother.  Openly talk about the emotional wounding.  Create reasonable boundaries and expectations within the mother and adult daughter relationship.
  • BALANCE-Work to reinforce your self-concept and self-esteem.  Review and reframe the journey of your life.  Believe in the journey.  See the journey.  Walk the journey.  Stop seeking acceptance from others.  Look within and gain self-acceptance.
  • CALMNESS-Understand that the comfort zone, otherwise known as the “peace you are seeking” lies within you.  Stop looking to others to grant you empowerment.  Empowerment must come from within.

 

Concluding Words

Why do sheep stay in their groups and not walk alone? It is within the context of the larger group that they find safety, shelter and security.  At the same time, they submit to the will of the group. They do not move alone because they live in fear.  Such lives are set.  They have found their comfort zone.  This is what they know.

The eagle, on the other hand, may travel in pairs or alone.  She/he is an individualist, seeking to soar to greater heights, despite whatever barriers or obstacles lie before them.  They are majestic and unstoppable.  They live with fear.

Stop being concerned with how others may perceive you.  Continue to walk your journey.  Focus on crossing the finish line in whatever race you engage in.  It really does not matter when you cross or whether others believe (or not) in your ability.  What is essential is that you believe…in self.  Be an advocate for the self, find balance and achieve calmness.

Stay with the sheep or soar with the eagles.  In fear or with fear.  You choose……

 

The Visible Man