Updated: Jan 11, 2020
Being called out is never fun, especially when it's a surprise reality check.
For those who know me know that I am an active participant and a huge believer in therapy. What started out as a cry for help about eight and a half years ago has turned into a path of self-awareness and discovery that I can't quit. It's kind of like working out, once you get through the initial "hard" (because it always gets worse before it gets better and anyone who tells you different is a liar), it becomes a way of life that feeds you like a drug; you start to feel better, experience positive change, become tapped into a heightened awareness, and you never want that high to stop. When you are forced to face the tough stuff going forward, you know that healing and betterment are around the corner, so working through the difficult becomes welcomed instead of feared. No one wants to lose the tan they gain by walking in the light after all.
So, one fine therapy day last week I ended up talking about a situation that happened with one of my children and how upsetting it was to me. The situation that transpired left me feeling hurt, frustrated, pushed aside, left out, and angry. It wasn't anything I was there to talk about, but like a true therapist with their super power to cut right to the heart of anyone, we circled that topic for a bit. What was told to me about my point of view was shocking; are you ready for it!? I was put on notice that I was making the situation ALL ABOUT ME and not about my child at all.
STOP IT. MIND BLOWN.
I went ahead and sat with that.
And when I came back to (j/k, j/k lol) I immediately calmed down about the whole thing that had me so worked up in the first place. While I still had my thoughts and opinions about what went down and how, I was able to put my emotions about it in check because my perspective shifted. The truth was, in fact, that I was indeed making it all about me. How it affected me. How I was disregarded. How I was missing out on something that I felt was very important. Me. Me. Me. I really didn't care how my child felt about what he did or even why he did it. That all had to be pointed out to me by someone who was both qualified to speak on such a topic and who also was on the outside looking in. With a shifted perspective I began to understand my son a little better and that made me a whole lot less angry and hurt.
Here's what I learned and what I want to pass onto anyone who will listen: while no one can hurt you like your kids can (fact), your kids don't naturally set out to hurt you. It is not on their radar (unless you are raising bad humans). We get hurt because we are egocentric about, not empathetic to, the situation. We, frankly, are often not interested in the "why", but more interested in the "what" and how the "what" made us feel. If this is how we continue to live life, we are going to be constantly disappointed in everyone, and lack grace on top of it. If we can't do better, I promise you all of our relationships will suffer.
Now having said all of that, I will say this: do not let empathy for another compromise what you feel is right. Allow empathy to inform you how to handle a situation with grace and love, but always handle a situation that needs to be handled (as in the case with my child). Therapist or not, no one is walking in your shoes and has full knowledge of what is happening outside of that therapy session, so be open to different perspectives and allow said perspectives to turn you into the best version of yourself, but use discernment. You are the parent, not them, and that matters; don't let anyone or anything remove you from that ever-important job or make you feel like you need to back away from that role. Even if your child doesn't want you to show up for a part of their life, for whatever reason, remember that your child is a CHILD and doesn't know yet what is in their best interest. Show up, speak up and never give them a foothold to internalize that you didn't care. In my humble opinion you can never care too much about your kid(s). My kids may say a lot about me when they are older, but they will never be able to say that I didn't show them that I care tremendously about and for them.
If you are ever called out and shocked by it, know that you have a choice to either allow it to shift your perspective in a meaningful and helpful way, or let it tear you down. Your choice. Flex your muscles and do the first and watch the better you emerge. Everyone around you will thank you for it and benefit from it.
Peace and Love,