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Posts tagged ‘being responsible to others’

You’re Never Responsible for Your Parents’ Feelings

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Micah had taken an overdose of drugs. At 24, he had dropped out of school and was living at home.

Since his parents were “good Christians,” his behavior was very upsetting to them. It tarnished their image to their group of friends, so they brought him to therapy.

As Micah and I began to explore why he was suicidally depressed, I discovered that his parents were having serious marital problems. They would get into screaming fights and then wouldn’t speak to each other for days. They would bring Micah into conflict. Micah’s father would ask Micah to ask Micah’s mother something, and vice versa.

At other times, Micah’s parents would both confide in him about the other person, instead of confronting each other directly. Micah’s mother told him that she could never stand to be left alone with his father. If Micah left home, they would divorce. If that happened, she said, she would commit suicide, implying it would be “Micah’s fault.”

Micah wanted to move out of his parents’ house and get on with his life, but he was afraid that his moving out would cause his parents’ divorce and his mother’s suicide. He felt he had no choice.

After months of hard work in therapy, Micah learned that he had another option. He learned that he wasn’t responsible for his parents’ feelings toward one another, nor was he responsible for his mother’s depression if she got divorced.

I will never forget the day in a family session that Micah gathered up his strength to confront his mother.

“Mom, I’ve been thinking. I think it’s time for me to finish school. I want to get a job.”

“But the family needs you here. Your father and I are still …”

“No, Mom,” he interrupted. “What you and dad do is up to you. I’m 24, and I’m going to get on with my life.”

She started to cry.

“Mom, you can turn off the tears, because they aren’t going to work anymore. Every time I have ever tried to do something for me, you cry, and I change my mind. I’m not going to do this again. If you are sad about me leaving home, and you and dad are going to fight, that’s your problem.”

Micah had learned what his mother had never learned: each of us responsible for our own feelings. Trying to change the way someone else feels is like losing the ability to steer our car.  We are out of control.

Don’t Let Toxic Family Members Shame You into Compliance

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Holly was one of the angriest women I had ever seen in my office. She was angry at her family’s excessive expectations of her. Her mother expected her to call her every week and to accompany her on shopping trips. If there was a family function, Holly had to be there. Her father expected her to come home for Sunday dinner. Her brother expected her to come to all of his sporting events.

And if she didn’t, Holly’s family shamed her into submission.

I agreed with Holly that her family’s expectations were extreme, but when I suggested that her family wasn’t going to change and that she had to free herself from their expectations by changing her attitude, she became angry with me. She felt that if I didn’t see her as a victim, I didn’t care. I assured her that while she had indeed been victimized growing up, she had to stop allowing herself to be victimized by freeing herself from both her family’s expectations and her expectations of them.

“I don’t have any expectations of them,” she replied. “They are the ones with the ‘shoulds.’ “

“On the contrary,” I said. “you’re just like them. They say that you should come over for dinner every Sunday, and you say that they should stop pressuring you to come.” In other words, her expectation was that they should not have any expectations.

Over the course of many sessions, I tried to help her see that until she took responsibility for her own attitude that her family “should” change, she would never be free. Since I would not agree with her that her family needed to change in order for her to get well (which was out of her control), we hit a stalemate.

She could feel I was on her side if I would agree with her that her misery was their fault and not hers. I could agree with her that they had deeply injured her and were the source of much of her pain, but they were not the ones who were continuing it in the present. She was now an adult who had control over what she did and what she allowed others to do to her. But, because she felt that I was “on their side,” she quit.

When I saw her three years later, she was still stuck, still blaming her family for their attitudes toward and expectations of her.

Whenever we feel pressured by someone to do something, it is our problem [rather than] the one who is putting the pressure on. In reality, our, “feeling pressured” is our tendency to agree with the pressurer’s attitude instead of setting forth our own. We must get in touch with how we are getting hooked into saying yes and not put the blame on the other person.

How to make a relationship better all by yourself

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

I’m happy to say that my daughter was recently married. As a mom, it was one of the best days of my life (another was the day we adopted her from Korea). I prayed that I would enjoy not only the actual wedding day, but also the weeks leading up to it. As a counselor, I’ve heard too many horror stories of family meltdowns while planning for the perfect wedding. So, my daughter and I made a pact that we weren’t going to let that happen. And, fortunately, the process turned out to be wonderful.

My daughter’s wedding reminded me how you and I have incredible power to make a problem situation better just by the way we handle it. Don’t get me wrong, we can’t make a bad relationship good by ourselves. But, we can make it better by the way we respond when things go wrong.

In light of this truth, consider two things you can do to improve any relationship difficulty, whether husband and wife, parent and child, pastor and parishioner, or neighbor-to-neighbor.

Be Teachable 

Most of us don’t respond well to criticism, correction, or confrontation. Usually, we get defensive and argumentative. But, what would it be like if you listened respectfully when talking with someone about a problem, instead of reacting defensively? How might the outcome change if you showed interest in the other person’s perspective?

When we’re teachable, we realize that we do not know it all or that we’re always right. We know that God has put certain people in our lives for a purpose, even if what they have to say to us is difficult to hear. For example, the Bible says, “Let a righteous man strike me – it is a kindness; let him rebuke me – it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it.” (Psalm 141:5)

Make Honest Confession

Relationships deteriorate because problems are often avoided, blamed, or denied. We all know we mess up. So, when you blow it, be honest, and admit it.

Recently, I doubled-booked myself for an appointment, and two people arrived at the same time. I decided to admit my mistake, ask for forgiveness, and reschedule one of them. Initially, I was tempted to shift blame to my office manager, but I believe honestly admitting mistakes actually builds trust.

Sadly, many of us refuse to admit our mistakes or confess wrongdoing. Instead, we wait for the other person to do it first. We further damage our relationships by erecting walls of stubborn silence, pride, and shame. So, rather than honest confession, we make excuses. But, the result of our stubbornness is more brokenness and more separation.

Ask yourself if you need to tell someone, “I’m sorry…I was wrong.” What relationship might be healed if those words were said in a genuine way? Consider the freedom and trust that you could enjoy by taking that step today.

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