We can choose together.
How a parent learns to pause and hear her habitual parental commands by truly listening to her child’s habitual complaining.
I am a trained resilience coach with a degree from the University of Pennsylvania in positive psychology. I am an expert at integrating my client’s left over and unresolved issues. I am also a solo mom with left over issues of my own. I am figuring out my own ups and downs right along side my client. This bi-directional relationship is life-giving — a virtuous circle of growth and renewal. Whether parenting or coaching, I give and in return get so much more.
Thus, when my client experienced a monumental shift from victim-venting to creator-consciousness, the reflection catalyzed my own behavior-changing, Own. Mine. Own. Shit. awakening too. I heard my 10yo daughter victim-vent about her homework with new understanding.
Yesterday was day one of truly hearing her language: I have no choice, everyone else tells me what to do, I cannot do what I really want to do, and my confusing, complex, inner-frustration can only be expressed by complaining, defending, feeling sorry for myself, and feeling outrage at the unfairness of it all. I just want to draw! Why do I have to do my homework?! Why can’t anyone understand that I feel disempowered?!
My mom-mind jumped forward forty years, where I heard my adult daughter bemoan her lack of free-will to her friends, partner, co-worker, hair stylist, acupuncturist, therapist. Yesterday I realized I am raising a victim. Today, I own my truth: I am responsible.
Damn. Good to know. How did this happen? I learned how to be a parent with a dependent baby, and I have not consciously adjusted to parenting a rising middle-schooler.
I failed to help my daughter transition from dependence to interdependence. Rather, I transitioned us both from dependence to independence.
How do I know this? Because I can hear her victim-vent; her response is the equal and opposite reaction to my request. It’s simple physics.
How do I know this? Because I believe it’s my job to make sure she brushes her teeth, eats her vegetables, finishes her homework, gets to school on times. In short, I micromanage my child. I provide the prompts that motivate her action. Me. I motivate her action.
I am a persecutor creating a victim who has learned that she has no choice. Rather than empower her with choice, I disempower her with commands. Rather than teach, I tell.
This type of social interaction is known as the Drama Triangle: three dysfunctional roles that interact together when we operate from not-our-best-selves-thinking. The roles are persecutor, rescuer, and victim. As a parent, I play the rescuer and persecutor. My daughter plays the victim.
My core belief: It’s my job to make sure you grow up healthy, wise, generous, kind.
The dynamic: I blame myself; sometimes, I blame her.
The benefits of playing the role: I have a sense of control. I feel we’re on track to realizing her kind, wise, healthy self.
The price paid for playing the role: I end up being responsible for everything. Radical independence. I become a micro-manager. I create a victim. I disempower my daughter.
Result: I feel alone.
When I operate from the belief that it’s my job to make sure she grows up wise, kind, responsible and healthy, I behave like a persecutor. I don’t persecute my daughter, I persecute myself. And I don’t engage her in figuring it out for herself. I don’t engage us in figuring it out together.
This dysfunctional interaction happens at breakfast.
Myself: “Will you please take your vitamins?”
Her: “They taste bad.”
Myself: “They keep you healthy.”
Her: Ignores me. Leaves the fish oil capsule untouched.
Myself: “How about I make a tasty drink to wash them down?”
And now I have moved from persecutor to rescuer.
My core belief: I’ll jump in and fix it. It’s my job to make you feel better.
The dynamic: It’s my responsibility, not yours.
The benefits of playing the role: I become indispensable. I am the hero.
The price paid for playing the role: I create a victim. She grows up thinking something or someone needs to fix her discomfort.
Result: I feel burdened.
And this is how a well-intentioned parent raises a victim-child who matures with subtle and deeply subconscious adaptations, who shuts down their true self, who shackles their own desires to please their persecutors, or who becomes self-persecuting — turning their blame inward. Damn. Good to know.
The core belief: My life is so hard. My life is so unfair. Poor me.
The dynamic: It’s not my fault, it’s theirs.
The benefits of playing the role: I have no responsibility for fixing anything; I get to complain; I can attract rescuers.
The price paid for playing the role: I have no sense of being able to change anything; change is outside of my control. I feel disempowered.
Result: I feel useless.
Together we are stepping out of the drama triangle: From victim to creator. From rescuer to self-observer. From persecutor to puzzler. For each new role, we created prompts that help us think consciously. Then we attached a note to our fridge to remind us of our interdependence growth goals.
How do I teach not tell?
Our new breakfast conversation:
Myself: “I can see you dislike taking your fishoil supplement. Why is that?”
Her: “They taste fishy.”
Myself: “Yeah, they do. The oil keeps your insides moist. What would you do if your skateboard wheels picked up dirt and grit and stopped rolling smoothly?”
Her: “I’d clean and oil the bearings.”
Myself: “This capsule is the oil for your body’s bearings.”
Her: immediate consumption of the dreaded capsule.
How do we disengage from blame? How do we disentangle our oughts? How do we disconnect all shackles?
The first step is awareness. I am pausing to hear my habitual parental commands, and rephrasing my requests. We are openly discussing our roles in the drama triangle. We are supporting each other in becoming the conscious creators of our reality.
One. Day. At. A. Time.
Originally published at www.benddontbreak.me on October 21, 2017.