Posts Tagged ‘anxiety

27
Jun
17

Dear Beth Behrs, (Part One)

*****

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You lovely, troubled blonde beauty who lights the room with her smile and radiant hair (preferably when it’s cut evenly, not too short and not exposing only one ear).

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Yea, not a good look.  The photo up top is much nicer.  Plus, in this photo, you look a little dazed or scared of the camera flashes.

Had I known we were such a match, I would have written sooner.  [You’re a lil on the short side but all right.]

You see, I had this whole thing planned out about 6 years ago when I first saw you don that crazy pearl necklace on 2 Broke Girls.  I was going to ogle–er, court you for a few years to get to know you. Then I was going to propose.  I mean, I had the flowers all picked out and everything…  Buuut, I guess some other guy beat me to the punch last summer.  Typical me.  Too slow.  Too shy.  And, late, again.

Actually, I’ve been fawning over you since the start of 2 Broke Girls but figured you were either too young or already involved with some hunk.  [I had some other predictions, but those shall remain in the vault for now.]

And, when I found the nerve and common sense to look up your birthday, I found some astrology factors that looked favorable.  [VERY favorable.]  I had planned a birthday surprise.  But, every time your birthday came around, I would forget and slap myself to remember the next year.

So, why am I writing this now?  Today?  Carpe diem.  And I thought…what the heck.  Why not?!  Message in a bottle.

Just recently, I learned about you suffering from panic attacks and anxiety since your teens?  What started that?  And, why did I first read about it now?  Anyway, I thought we are a perfect pair of nervous spirits who could play therapist to each other.  That or we’d sink the ship sooner just because we’d both panic and maybe not get to the meditation time and place soon enough.  [I’m not good at taking time to meditate.  But, I frequently use “active meditation” which is essentially daydreaming to unwind.  It can be quite hazardous to both memory and focusing on the moment at hand, which is often frowned upon by authorities like teachers and bosses.]

My eyebrow raised when I read about this horse therapy thing you’ve started…something about survivors of sexual abuse?  I-I-Is that what gave you the panic attacks?  Cuz that is a really particular group to focus on with horse therapy.  Why not social anxiety or the fear of horses?  Why not social media detox (as you wrote somewhere about the practice of letting your “smart” phone go rather than glue yourself to it)?

[FYI I’ve yet to ride one but loooove horses.  And, tigers/cats, squirrels…]

You don’t have to be funny to be sexy (or lovable).  [I prefer “lovable” to “cute.”  You have a certain mature look that sort of eludes the cute factor.]  Nor do you have to pose in skimpy outfits (which do nothing to respect your beauty and spirit).  Or, do you feel you are being “cute” or funny when you pose for that sort of model photography?  You could wear a set of overalls and no makeup, and I am sure you could still be stunning.  And, even when you’re not stunning, you seem quite capable of being charming.  [Although, some of the scripted dialogue I’ve heard you say isn’t very charming or witty.  But, that’s showbiz.]

It’s hard to be funny consistently.  Being funny requires an audience with a compatible sense of humor.  And, being “on” too long or often is a drain on the emotional and mental batteries.  Plus, withdrawal from the spotlight can be a beeyatch.

I imagine it’s hard to be sexy consistently unless you just have that IT factor, unless you’re someone’s type.  So, when I saw you relate being funny to self-confidence, I worried about your “balance.”  It’s like putting faith in a candle.  What happens when the flame goes out?

What SHOULD give you confidence is that you can take command of a room with just a look, a smile.  You have steadfastness in your astrology, particularly Chinese astrology.  There is where you may find that “exquisite hostess at home” energy you claim or desire to have/showcase.  Ironically, I think it would make you a fine caterer.  [If I knew more, I could tell you more.]

I’d like to talk more about a few things, particularly the anxiety/panic matter.  I appreciate what you’ve written about it as it gives me food for thought.  I would do everything I could to alleviate your woes.  But, I see the boyfriend (or fiance) is giving me that look.  So, I should go.  But, it was nice seeing you, again.

[Call me!  Er, drop a note in my email box.  Wink.]

Beth-Behrs-03

[Gorge-e-ous, Caroline Charming.  Although, the skirt could be longer.  🙂 ]

 

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16
May
17

My Response to “Self-Esteem Issues in Ohio” (Dear Abby)

*****
[Letter titled “Being Lifelong Target of Ridicule Eats at Self-Esteem.]

“Self-Esteem…in Ohio” is in their 30s and coming to terms with social/dating difficulties stemming from a lifetime of ridicule and, quite likely, manipulation, claiming to be more comfortable putting him/her self down than doing what makes him/her happy.

I’d say he/she is in an emotional rut, passing through a sad storm.  Sometimes we write things in the moment we are most emotional and it passes.  Sometimes the problem/feeling lingers.

Dear Abby suggests professional therapy.  I feel this is too easy to recommend without a sound system of assuring the doctor-patient relationship will work.  In a way, finding a good therapist is like dating except more expensive.  Heck, even online dating sites charge less per month to gamble with them.   So, isn’t a therapist asking more than a hundred bucks an hour for you to repeat your life history, before they remotely understand your problems, compounding the problem?

*****

Well, before I get started, I had a flashback to a time not too long ago when I found and visited the Dear Abby archives/website. I found the digital copy of the letter and a loooooooooooooooong line of responses from other people, reminding me of the old chatroom and message board days. There are many who have the same responses and a handful claiming to be in similar shoes. So, anything I could say wouldn’t be much different. And, I am not sure the “discussion” is any better than comments on YouTube, as they may be hard to read/filter.

On that note, I WILL still offer some thoughts and personal experience. After all, I am not a man of few words, usually. And, if I get carried away, it might be too much for the comment trail space. I might get more attention at the source. Yet, this is just as good, writing out my thoughts, self therapy, if nothing else.

If you can handle it, please take the time to read my “radically reduced” response (which, after two drafts, is still quite long). [I am slowly learning to curb myself and save some information for more appropriate, more fruitful settings. The general public viewing space is not the same as controlled group therapy.]

But, if you reader(s) care to sift through the website comments, go HERE.

*****

First off, I was surprised I didn’t think to ask it myself. Are you a man or woman suffering from this? I presumed you were a man like me which prompted me to respond. Some of what you said struck such a resounding tone with my own troubles.

Secondly, as I know I can say more than can fit in a few lines, if you read what I have to say and want to discuss these matters (perhaps more privately), my mailbox is open.

I’ll try to group my thoughts to address various topics…and keep the details brief.

LABELS

I don’t like to say I have a condition or disease as this only makes matters worse than if I simply think of my troubles as clouds overhead which can be diminished or replaced with sun, now and then. Better to think of the bad times as foul weather that will pass, I say.

ESTEEM AND/OR ANXIETY

I don’t consider what I suffer from as low self-esteem but, rather, social anxiety, a fear to engage people beyond a certain trust level. It’s not as bad as a gal I know who freaks out if a guy approaches her to be more than a friend. I can mingle with certain people if the “water” is inviting enough. I typically have little to no trouble talking to people who I don’t consider relationship prospects, but I cannot seem to approach any woman I find attractive. And, if I do begin talking with one who then turns out to be more than I can handle (or fear she will find fault with me), it becomes a real dire situation to get out of the mess. So, I tend to run through the scenario beforehand and avoid even a kind greeting or more than “Hi.” [I set myself up to fail before trying.]

I’ve tried various methods of countering my anxieties. One, which has yet to work well though I love the idea, is delivering thoughts on paper. Rather than speaking with the person directly or trying to get an email address/phone number (as some seem to make appear so easy), I would write my thoughts in a note and pass it to the person or get someone to pass it to the person. I never passed notes in school, ironically. But, I’ve done it on the job (hoping to avoid a boss telling me not to socialize on the job by inviting the person I wanted to speak with to find me after work).

You’ve probably heard the bits about loving yourself before you love another and being comfortable alone, too. I don’t know what to think of these philosophies, but they give me a headache.

I was a kid who spend adequate time alone because Mom and Dad were not available or interested in what I liked to do, other than art, and I couldn’t do art all of the time. [That’s a whole other ball of wax, source of childhood trauma.] I could occupy myself and say I was okay. But, as I matured, I needed some social connection. I had heard “no man is an island” and took it to heart. I just wasn’t very good at getting off my island and joining the natives of another. And, no one was going to show me the ropes without sounding suspicious.

We’ve likely both been “okay” on our own long enough. How long do we have to go alone before we connect with someone? Right? And, how do we define loving ourselves? How do we know we pass the test and can move on to the next step, loving someone else? Who verifies our abilities?

TALKING DOWN ABOUT ONESELF

I don’t recall doing this in my youth. What I do recall wasn’t so much me talking about myself as it was conveying what others had said/done about me. I guess it was my way of taking a punch instead of fighting back. I’m not exactly a fighter, but as the saying goes, “corner a cat and get scratched.” [I’ve had my moments when I lashed back at those who went too far.]

However, as I entered my teens, I started to seriously wonder what was wrong with me. I can relate to what you say about not making yourself happy. For the longest time, I have put up with crap, figuring I could do no better. I would not say I have low standards by any stretch, but I have taken chances without making sure the decision was right in my gut. And, usually, when I don’t follow my desires, I run into trouble. Yet, if I only listened to my inner voice, I’d probably be more anti-social than I already am, because, I suspect, some of the voices inside me have been shoved in there by my family and peers. And, why do I want to listen to them?

THERAPY AND SELF-HELP BOOKS/EXPERTS

Whenever someone has no better advice or assistance to offer, I see this often. “Get professional help.” As if it were so simple. If you’re lucky, insurance may cover some or all of it. But, I doubt it. And, from my experience, it was more harm than help, especially when my family did whatever the professionals prescribed without considering its impact on me. As a minor, I was not to be trusted; I might as well have had rabies or be told I was due to be “put down.” In short, my trust in therapy ended when the last pill I was convinced to take nearly ended my life. When professional help goes that far the wrong way, you either get mad or you die obeying strangers.

I’ve encountered many “self-help” books, too, by self-proclaimed life-experts. I would snort at these quite hastily, wondering what makes anyone an expert on life when they are still living and learning as I am. Especially, if that life expert is younger than me. After all, what is the sense of life experience if someone can live it all before another? Just because one tree figures out how to produce apples faster than another does not make it wiser or all-knowing about fruit production. [This logic might also be applied to the medicine field and how pill manufacturers fail to grasp the concept of every body being potentially different; we can’t all be lab rats just to satisfy someone’s curiosity.]

Maybe I am not being fair. Maybe there are still good therapists in this world. But, I have yet to meet one. And, after my horrible experience, I am inclined to reject the idea.

If you DO consider professional help (in other words, advice and/or assistance from someone outside the circle that knows you already), I hope you can do as much research as possible and defer the expense.

I think therapy works when we accept someone’s way of thinking into our own. I’ve read some self-help books that have fairly good ideas. I just have a hard time trusting my soul to a book instead of someone I can see with my own eyes and hold with my hands. [I suppose this could have people questioning my ability to believe in a god, my religion. After all, what is faith in a god other than trusting stories passed down about someone I cannot see or hold?] So, if you tell yourself to have faith in the words of another, it’s likely you’ll adapt and do your best to make that work.

I guess, because I’ve “been there, done that,” it’s hard for me to trust, again.

Suggestions for countering these problems:

1) Well, I already gave one about labeling conditions/difficulties.

2) As for the lack of confidence to engage others or feel better about ourselves, I wish I could find a good therapy group, if I cannot do better at making friends on my own. I’m not likely to seek such a group out, sadly. I have doubts about therapy and professionals but DO think a group is better than one-on-one.

I had brief experience with group therapy and campfire discussions. But, I could feel, rather quickly, a sense of community. When everyone in the group contributes, there is less likelihood of distrust. You slowly let your guard down and accept not being alone with the problem. I had a good time with my senior (high school) retreat when the group was able to divulge personal trials. Suddenly, those who appeared flawless were just as fragile as I, and I wanted to reach out to them, to hug them. [Sadly, the trip did not end as well as it started.]

HOWEVER, be sure you are in the right group and gauge your experience day-by-day. Because, I was placed with one group who had different problems than my own, and it made no sense for me to spill my emotions to people who could barely speak for themselves and/or comprehend my woes.

3) I have repeatedly tried something over my lifetime which doesn’t exactly accomplish much other than shaking an emotional load off my shoulders. Whenever someone made me feel “less than” or hounded me (like a bully), I would concoct a tall tale. [This probably contributed to some calling me a liar at the wrong time, like the “boy who cried wolf.”] It’s sort of like the advice some give about wild animal encounters; you make yourself look big. That’s what I did without attempting to be cooler or dress differently (as many would do). I talked big and fabricated details, hoping to steer away whatever was looming over me like a plague. It doesn’t necessarily make me feel better about myself, but it helps to steer the threats away.

Consider this a last resort strategy. Some days, I’d just want to get home and unwind. And, I’d tell myself this strategy accomplished the bottom line. It got me out of the line of fire. But, if the problem didn’t stop

4) I like how people describe Conan O’Brien as having “self-deprecating humor.” People like him are able to stay modest and have a sense of humor about themselves, so it’s less likely to get or feel hurt. In some foreign films, you might hear “fight fire with fire” or “counter poison with poison.” Even in common medicine, a vaccine is often a re-built virus used to counter another.

So, rather than simply shoot yourself down, have a sense of humor about your shortcomings. Find a way to turn a negative into a joke. So, at least, if you DO find yourself in an awkward situation, you can make light of it. And, try not to let yourself wonder if your date thinks you suffer from anything just because you make jokes or put yourself down. Don’t double the weight already on your mind.

5) Think outside the dating box. If you view a date in any particular way and figure it’s a hopeless case, try designing a different date (like drawing a new map for how to walk through a park or a new menu for your favorite restaurant). [IE Some expect sex on a third date. I don’t care for this “rule.” I must assure myself I don’t have to follow it and set my own rules. And, if my date doesn’t agree, I don’t have to continue dating that person.  Of course, I may be good at designing, but I lack the drive or self-assurance to put my designs into reality/action.  Which is why I see myself as a good interior decorator.  hehe  I design the room but don’t necessarily have to do all the remodeling.]

I’ll take a chance in saying something about my dating history.  I’ve probably gone on a handful of dates, altogether.  My first date was as much a disaster as it was a relief.  I was once accused of standing someone up and ran into an emotional dispute IN PUBLIC (which I dread) as a result of me pursuing the relationship that, apparently, wasn’t to be.

I do better befriending a person and then trying to arrange times we can hang out together casually, instead of trying to follow some schedule every few days, weeks or months.  [And, the people I usually befriend come from my workplace.  I don’t go to “normal” hangouts to meet people because I don’t have a group of friends to join me.]  I’ve “dated” people through emails and chat rooms before meeting them in person.  I can’t say I’ve had much success, but it certainly feels better getting what you can for free or little money than paying some agency of faceless strangers to hopefully find you a match.  My methods are not conventional.  But, I’m not sending disturbing nude images to people just to get a rise out of them, either (like some who deter people from trying anything online).

6) Exercise is good. I agree with those who recommend exercise for improving psychology and the mood. [Posture and what we do with our hands also play a part.]  I didn’t get it until my twenties. In school, I wasn’t exactly lazy, but I didn’t do anything to “work out” other than play video games and the occasional sport practice by my own rules. I never lifted a weight or ran a mile (which proved to be a cause of great distress and embarrassment). But, once I started walking to get groceries, etc., I found myself melting pounds and stress away. I recommend bringing a headset radio/MP3 player to give yourself something to “suck” on and tune out the traffic. But, if you like walking among nature and listening to every little sound, have at it. I tend to dwell on negative thoughts without my music.

7) Diet may be a factor.  Consider what you eat regularly but don’t guilt yourself for enjoying the occasional comfort food.  A few tips in this area:

a) Moderation is a very important word.  If you find yourself eating a whole bag of chips or candy, stop.  Nor do you need to eat a whole head of lettuce in a day to say you’ve had your veggies.  Have a little of every food group or flavor type, and your taste buds will feel fuller sooner.

b) There are self-help books that talk about how what we eat impacts both physical and mental health.  Look into Ayurvedic medicine, the use of herbs and various food groups to address internal issues like nerves.  I’ve heard pumpkin seeds and shrimp are good for countering nerves, but I’ve seen minor results, at best.

c) Know your body type.  Some people are just genetically built to change weight/shape as the seasons shift.  Some, like me, don’t gain weight much because of a hyper metabolism.  Others are designed to be stout.  Once you know your type, accept it.  [I would presume this is a step to that “self love” requirement, but it’s not often someone will address it this way.]

8) If you haven’t already, consider looking into astrology and figuring out who to avoid, who to approach and what you can do to appeal to those you do approach.  You might be surprised by what clicks with another person, finding new connections/commonalities.  I personally find the subject full of possibilities and creatively inspiring.  But, that may just be because of my “sign.” 🙂

9) When all else fails or seems too complicated, don’t forget to take deep breaths and blow the negative thoughts and clutter from your mind.  I’ve had many bouts with panic attacks.  [Another topic for another time.]  Some nights, I’d go to bed worried I’ll forget something important that just crossed my mind.  I need to have faith and tell myself what matters will be there when I wake.

10) Art is often my therapy.  I can craft in many forms.  There is no specific yoga pose or martial art I have to follow.  I just have to pray for creative inspiration and appreciate it when it comes.  There’s a whole study on the use of mandalas and adult coloring books you might investigate.  Or, try what my family call “doodle challenges” in which one person draws a line or shape, and another (or yourself if you really must do this alone) turns that shape or line into something.  It’s sort of like finding shapes in the clouds.  [This is not directly helpful to dating, but it may be good for clearing the distressful clutter from your mind/heart.]

[I’m sure I’ll think of more and reconsider some of my verbiage in good time.  🙂  Again, if interested, I’m willing to compare notes via email and, eventually, other means.]

 

I normally copy this to a special blog page I created as an archive.  But, it doesn’t seem to be working, today, in case anyone wonders why the response isn’t there (or the link here).]

28
Feb
17

My Response to “Achiever Mom” (Carolyn Hax)

*****
You can find my response to this and other letters on the designated page. But, while you’re here, have a read.  [You may find a loose end or two as my response kept evolving over a few days.  I finally just decided to post what I had.]

Achiever Mom is concerned about her son who is twelve years old, not exceptional in sports or academics and void of any interest with which she feels able to relate. She mentions her husband as a socially anxious under-achiever and highlights a moment in which her son supposedly chose to forfeit a spelling bee due to a lack of interest in winning/trying. Claiming she grew up grasping at every opportunity she could, this incident made her angry at him for not being more ambitious to achieve greater status.

Carolyn Hax does a decent job of asking Mom to accept her son as he is and let him find his own way. But, Hax seems to be making the assumption the son bailed on the challenge, knowing it would irk his mom, making the son appear more devious than he may be (which could have a negative impact on what the mother does next).

While overall content with the article/response, I felt there were a few details missing, details that might need light shed upon them to better understand and direct the situation at a crucial stage. This case also touches on a personal one, which motivates me to speak out. Thus, the following response is more about my experience and how it may be related to the situation at hand than added advice.

————–

Achiever Mom, you be careful with that boy. I don’t want to scare you, but soon, he will be entering high school, that tumultuous stormy sea between Scylla and Charybdis that tests youth’s metal. He will face temptation, heavier work loads and peer pressure like he has never known. He will be torn between convention and rebellion, between practical and unorthodox. And, if you so much as twist his wrist in an effort to tell him “how it’s done” or fail to teach him how to accept defeat, you could scar him and the connection you have for life.

If you don’t mind reading a novella, I’m content to sit down and discuss this with you for the moment. Getting all of the thoughts out and answers we might benefit from is a tad hard to achieve in half of a newspaper page. Why don’t you make yourself comfortable, take a deep cleansing breath, maybe fix yourself a calming drink and have a go at this.

[FYI, I speak from experience; I was a boy much like your son. I had a father who (without any “inheritance”) boasted military experience (in “peace time”) and a mother who was the self-proclaimed ruler of discipline and organization (as well as the queen of denial). But, I didn’t bail on the spelling bee. I simply fell short and discouraged myself from trying, again, because I had been built up to think I was smarter than I performed and acknowledged for a skill I must not have valued much (until I was older and learned to care more about the full use of words than just spelling them). I made one mistake and didn’t have the nurturing I felt necessary to continue or didn’t see the logic in trying, again. I had no “failure coping skills,” no interest in being less than the best and, to be quite honest, little to no interest in glory from spelling.

There were many other instances in which I had gut instincts to go one way and my parents insisted I go their way. And, in short, because they only accepted doing things my way after it was too late (after I paid the price of going against my gut feeling) or after lengthy protest and stressing out, a rift gradually grew. In just a few years, it grew to the point I lost sight of the childhood love I had for my parents. And, to this day, that love is razor thin; it’s an obligation and an oath, not a comfort or treasure.

I had a hard time talking with my parents about nearly every concern on my mind. And, there were plenty in my early teens. Certain tasks or challenges were deemed too dangerous or unfit for me before I could even attempt them. Where I wanted to try was not always approved. The more often I quit, the less my parents approved of me; and the more I disliked myself. Yet, I could not see any merit in continuing what discouraged and/or hurt me, as well as what seemed “too hard.” I was told I was a good student, but that didn’t seem the case when it came to learning from/with my parents. Confusion does not make a good foundation. And, when later asked by others why I couldn’t do something, I felt too embarrassed to say no one never taught me or that I was afraid to learn. Nor could I easily take what others taught me and apply it at home without my parents objecting strongly.]

Your last little paragraph kind of says it all. You are a tightly wound violin string ready to snap at the kid for a “mocking bow” and potentially never succeeding at anything. You may say it was so, but I don’t know and doubt he was mocking. Nor would I be so harsh to assume he will never succeed at anything; that’s just devastating talk. Get that junk out of your head, doing a weekly sweep if necessary.

[That reminds me of a time when my mother thought I was “faking” weakness/illness/injury. I was actually physically, mentally and emotionally hurt; and she thought I was faking. I don’t remember her saying so when I was in the moment. But, hearing her thoughts, decades later, hurt almost as much as they would have had I heard them as that kid. It explains why I felt so abandoned and helpless at the time, left to fend for myself like a baby bird that fell from the nest. Yet, I didn’t do so well fending for myself. Had I been a bird, I probably would have died or been eaten.]

Whether or not you shake your head at my earlier assessment, let me ask you a valid question (or two). How successful are you, really? [That might have shed some light on the situation.] Are you the “breadwinner?” Are you at the peak of your career path? Or, are you “content” with much less than you yourself could have had yet wishing–as many do–for your children to “have a better life” while losing sight of what you experienced?

Understand that some things never change; but others do. Tools that were available when you were his age are not the same now. Opportunities you had then are not necessarily available now. Others you did not have are. Circumstances are slightly different.

———
This next portion is going to sound much like what Carolyn said with a few different words. You might find a few new perspectives. But, you can skip past it, if you prefer.

Instead of focusing on the word “succeed,” right now, put the phrase “stimulate the happiness of others” up over your work space and do everything in your power to guide your son toward what makes him happy (not what makes you happy). In time, I would guess (I mean, what do I know?) this will turn into success once he feels good about what he can do before assuming he can or must be successful.

Teach him a lesson my parents had a hard time–if not failed at–grasping: how to experience failure and deal with it. Don’t teach him to fear failure and fear trying things you feel he isn’t fit or right to do (like laundry, cooking and other household chores), just because he doesn’t do them your way or makes a mess. [Maybe there’s a reason he doesn’t follow directions well; and it doesn’t have to be a “disability” or “attitude problem.”]

The scariest part of the coming years could be letting him do what he chooses and being ready to cushion any blows that come from those decisions, not letting him take over your house and lifestyle but allowing him to mold himself rather than have you pick the shape he takes. If there is competition, let him decide to enter or avoid it. Encourage him to discuss what is happening in his life without framing the moment with past experiences and assumptions/predictions. Then, if you see an opportunity for him to take a chance with good odds, kindly nudge him.

Say something like, “Hey, you’d be good at that. Why don’t you give that a try?” And, leave it at that. Or, provide the tools/supplies without any pressure to use them. [If you must, try a little negotiation. Say you’ll do ____ for him if he does ____ for you (for himself). And, don’t cave if he resists. But, don’t deprive him of necessities, either. Don’t take away his ability to connect with friends, regardless what he has done (and not from what he MIGHT do).] If he turns away from the challenge, don’t fight his decision. [However, if his life takes any scarier turns, if he withdraws so much from interaction, chores and challenges that his life seems in jeopardy, other action will become necessary.]

———

The first line of your letter that jumped out at me was where you mentioned your son being nervous and not wanting to be there. [Actually, the first was his saving grace, his sense of humor. I seem to have survived this long with that little life preserver, myself.] While nerves and refusal may be signs of weakness one could halt by pushing the weakling into the fray of battle, it might also have been an area of achievement he had little interest in pursuing. And, pressure to do something we do not instinctively favor could be unnecessary pressure, like peer pressure. Just because our peers tell us we’re uncool for not doing what they do; that doesn’t mean we can’t choose to do things differently.

Some adults might recall being kids pushed to take up musical instruments but, later, giving up these lessons to take up medical or financial jobs. They might look back and question their parents’ pressure to take interest. [Or, if they are so fortunate, the former kids might integrate those lessons into adult life and be some amazingly, envy-worthy, diverse people.]

[I personally was adept at math because I had a brain apparently gifted at absorbing equations. But, would I pursue math contests? No way. Too boring. I’m a creative spirit. There is no creativity in math, other than creating problems and, later, solutions. I don’t mind problem-solving. But, I guess I have little to no interest into imagining problems in terms of numbers and variables. My mind is more geared toward seeing social, arrangement/composition or regulation problems around me and figuring out solutions.]

One other thing about your letter that sticks in my mind: You briefly mention the husband being socially anxious and an under-achiever who struggles to get jobs. Yet, you love this guy; you married this guy, right? [That may be a tiny weight off my shoulders, an ounce of hope.] But, how much do you love him? And, could it be your marriage is merely another challenging opportunity you took upon yourself? Did you enter this family structure like a school contest, hoping to work your way up the ranks from district to state, mold the members like clay sculptures until they won the blue ribbon at the county fair? In other words, do you love your husband (and your son) for who he is, for being part of your life? Or, do you see them as works in progress you just haven’t been able to fully improve to the best of your ability, yet?

What would you say or have done had your husband not “inherited” any money? Would that have any impact on you marrying him? Was the money or family status a push toward the thought of a stable future/home?

I wonder, how does your husband feel about you (and the kid/s)? Do you have more than one child? That too could be a big factor in this pressure-to-achieve situation. For instance, how does this son get along with his siblings? How “successful” or “driven” are they? Might this son feel pressured to be like them when he is not?

[I knew a few “only childs” and saw how their parents treated them like pet projects, like singular rockets filled with hopes of greater success than any family of six or more could achieve.]

How would the husband feel being labeled an underachiever? Does he accept this like a healthy bowl of bran cereal to stabilize his diet? Is he comfortable not doing as much as some, accepting that some people are tortoises while others are hares? Or, do the words cut a little deep, leave him a little less eager to try?

———
Here comes some more advising verbiage. Again, breeze past it if you’d rather read more unique material.

At twelve, your son is at a crucial time of development, sure. [Heck, every year between birth and whatever number you want to use for labeling adulthood is crucial.] And, you could fortify this by giving him a swift kick into some regimen like boarding school or a “balanced diet,” and trust this will keep his back straight, his shoulders back and his elbows off the table. But, what is more important is a trusted family member fortifying him with experiences, both good and bad.

He needs to be free to try things, learn how to do them both your way and his own way and experience failure to learn from his mistakes. You’ve probably heard similar advice elsewhere. It just might not have stuck with you or found purpose. Well, I’d say the purpose has been found. It’s your son. And, he needs his mother to still catch him when he falls but to let him fall, as well, and learn what comes with failure, including the steps to recovery.

A parent who is driven by only success and grabbing every opportunity might not be relaxed enough to say, “It’s okay if I don’t have any interest in ___. Maybe I’ll give it a try; and, if I don’t like it, that’s fine. I’ll do better at something else.” You might get upset if you take on a crossword puzzle and leave half of it blank. You might cut interests out of your life because you did not excel at them. Or, you might think you have to be good at everything.

———

Which brings me back to the father in the picture. What’s his input with the son? How does he nurture the boy? Is his method annoying to you? If you answer the last question with some form of “yes,” that says plenty. Maybe a lack of desire to compete and excel could be directly or subtly linked to an unhappy union in which two committed lovers–role models for the boy–are anything but encouraging images at the finish line. The boy might not want to complete the race because the prize at the end of the road is not worth his time/energy. [Or, maybe, it’s not you he’s looking at but other families falling apart.]

———
One last push to sound competent and professional. These moments just pour out of me like a leaky boat. It’s the chatty therapist in me.

Get to know your son and his interests. [If at seventeen he still likes the cartoons he watched at five or keeps a stuffed animal on his bed, don’t harp on that being a bad thing.] Let him decide when it’s time to keep or part with something. Don’t assume his decisions or ways are bad ones. Teach your son how to pick himself up and try, again. Don’t insist he must continue or be smarter or more successful than he feels fit/able. Or, live with the possible failure of staying connected with your son; accept that he will likely cut ties with you or resent you if you push too hard or fail to fill in other gaps.

You can’t guarantee success no matter what method you try. You, too, must be able to cope with “failure” and still find happiness, contentment. Otherwise, this life is a miserable one.

———

Phew! And, breathe. [This is just the tip of the emotional iceberg for me.] If you manage to find my lengthy thought process here and wish to continue, feel free to contact me.

06
Feb
17

My Response to “Teen in Ogden, Utah” (Dear Abby)

*****

You can find my response to this and other letters, now available for your viewing and opinion, on the designated page

But, while you’re here, have a read.

“Teen” is fifteen years old and entering a Crusade, a religion-fueled war, with his divided parents. How the parents even managed to get married and have a kid is a mystery, considering one believes in God and the other sounds like an atheist. What is not a mystery is why “Teen” is distancing himself from the parents and feeling uncomfortable when church-related topics arise.

I might have left this one alone had I not been bothered by Abby’s last “sage advice” from a “wise clergyman.”

———

The opposite of faith is certainty? What is that supposed to mean, Abby? And, what do you expect this young man to do with that? I’d expect him to emulate his father. I do not think such “wise” words would inspire him to remain true to any religion/faith.

“Teen,” there is only one thing I am certain of: you will learn a great deal about how impulses of your parents dwell inside you in the coming years if not decades. And, you will do battle with those facets until you can rest assured in your choices. Knowing this, you can either accept the stress you feel as part of the life you’ve been given or seek out activities and groups that relieve this stress. Hopefully, ones that don’t involve “recreational drugs” and/or violence other than martial arts practice. A club or class/group that eases your mind will be far less costly than a therapist and could result in making some valuable connections.

If I may ask a few questions…

Exactly how does your belief in God vary so greatly from your mother’s that there is this problem? And, why does it seem like your non-believing father has no interest in involving himself in this struggle of yours? I picture him hiding his face behind a newspaper or cellphone while your mother “encourages” you to participate in a religious community. Apparently, you have no concern for hurting HIS feelings because he has offered none; he simply lets you do what you like until it affects his wallet or some other non-religious aspect of his life. [Or, is it possible your parents are on the verge of divorce and you simply opt to support your mother while opposing your father? Is it possible your mother married your father with aspirations of changing his ways and making him a part of her chosen faith?]

I may be off-base. But, I hear these other voices in response to your comments.

You say: It’s really uncomfortable when people ask why I haven’t been in church.
I hear/think: Church bothers me because it’s too formal. [Or maybe] Church bothers me because I’m asked to give money. [Or] Church bothers me because it interferes with my free/fun time. [Or] Church bothers me because my parents don’t go there together; it does not hold us together as a family.

You say: Mom signs me up for church activities, and I don’t like going.
I hear/think: I struggle with socializing/participating. [Or] I’m anti-social. [Or] I suffer from social anxiety.

Abby suggests telling your mother how much you love her and hope she will continue loving you as you explore your life/religious options. I would guess none of that sounds easy or comfortable for you. Am I right?

If I was you, I’d have a hard time saying I love my mother, too. At your age, I was entering a similar battle and just starting to distance myself from my parents who seemed unable to respect my decisions and even my personal space. Pressure to change one’s ways or attend certain activities could be a sign of lacking trust in you to make your own decisions and come to your parents for advice when you need it.

I cannot tell you which faith is right or wrong. But, if you can better understand or see what motivates the feelings you have, you can answer your own questions. If your mother is so bent on getting you involved in the activities of her church community, hurting her feelings may be inevitable. Yet, if her faith and love for you is strong, she will recover from the bruises. [Just don’t cut ties with her completely unless that is what you truly want. What you want today may differ from what you decide to have in your life years from now.]




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