Monthly Archives: March 2014
I always ask a new client about her support system.
“Who do you talk to?” I ask.
“Oh,” she usually says, “I have a couple of really close friends that I depend on.”
I hold that answer in mind during our first session, until we’ve explored the problems that brought her to therapy. Then I ask again.
“Those friends you mentioned. Do you talk to them about this stuff?”
And the answer I get most often is “No.”
“I’d be too embarrassed,” she’ll explain.
Or, “My friends have their own shit.”
Or, “I don’t want to burden anyone.”
This always makes me sad.
Friendship has been defined as a relationship without control. I like that definition.
It means with real friends you can be yourself without fearing judgment or rejection. You don’t have to be cautious or careful or tactical. You don’t have to pretend or hold back or self-edit. You don’t have to look good or have your shit together.
That, friends, is what friends are for.
And to the extent that someone can’t feel free in those ways, I have to wonder if her friends are really her friends.
A family reunion, and four generations gather in the kitchen to make dinner.
“Mom, why do you always cut off the end of the roast before you put it in the oven?” asks Daughter.
Replies Mom, “Because that’s how my mom always did it. Ask her.”
“Grandma, why do you cut off the end of the roast?”
“Because that’s how my mother always did it. Ask her.”
“Great-grandma, why did you always cut off the end of the roast?”
“Because my roasting pan was too damn small.”
We parents worry endlessly about making the right choices for our children.
We read parenting books, consult experts
We forget that most of what they learn from us they learn by an unconscious trickle-down effect.
That is, not from what we say, from our rules or our lectures.
But from our example.
They watch and listen and absorb like little sponges.
They absorb habits, and tastes, and attitudes.
They also absorb symptoms.
If we’re anxious, they learn anxiety. If we’re angry, they learn anger. If we’re controlling, they learn to control. And if we’re addicted…
You get it.
Hey, books are fine. So is expert advice.
But the parent who takes parenting seriously eventually puts down the book and picks up a mirror.
Beware of comfort.
Sure, it feels good.
Sure, you deserve it.
But because it feels good, comfort tends to interfere with more important things.
Honesty. Courage. Loyalty. Love. Growth. All require us to move beyond comfort.
Then too, because it feels good, comfort is addictive. The more you have, the more you want. Eventually that’s all you want. Or, if you’re not careful, all you can tolerate.
Finally, love of comfort is the royal road to control-seeking, especially the dysfunctional kind.
It sends you chasing the illusion that you can make things as you want them to be. Which stops you from learning to live with things as they are.
So sure, enjoy comfort when you can.
It feels good.
And you deserve it. Of course you do.
Just beware of it too.