“How true Daddy’s words were when he said: all children must look after their own upbringing… the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” – Anne Frank, writer
“She said, he had wrecked her life.”
“Trisha was a tall, self confident, 24 year old, university student with brown skins, brown hair, and brown eyes. She was in her fourth year of a engineering degree, and decided to take a psychology course…for a change of perspective. And, apparently, she got that change.
Trisha told me, in her class last week, they were discussing victimhood. The professor ask them the question, ‘What if, there were no victims because humans always get smarter and stronger, or they die, instead?’”
Trisha said she was deeply offended by this idea because, she had always thought, she was a victim of her father’s ‘poor parenting.’ She said, he had wrecked her life. When she challenged the idea in her class with her example, many of her classmates were not supportive. Her closest friend, Amelia, also in the class, said Trisha has brains and self discipline, so she didn’t see her as a victim at all. The resulting class discussion left Trisha so confused, she decided to get some more perspectives. So, she contacted my office.
When I asked her about, what she called, her father’s ‘poor parenting,’ she told me he was an alcoholic. He had abandoned her mother, and his three children. He was involved, as a physician, in an overseas disaster in which there were a lot of casualties. She said, when he returned home, he climbed into a whisky bottle, and has never come out since. She was told, he was displaying many of the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But, Trisha was not convinced…it seemed too convenient an excuse for her father, who Trisha said, was never attentive to his family.
“How did you cope with that moment…”
She went on to list the ways it had cost her, including: an absent father, an erratic family life, and a chronically, depressed mother. As she got into the details of her pain, she became more visibly upset. The prevailing emotions she carried seem to be feelings of anger, and long standing abandonment.
So, I asked her, “Trisha, what do you think has been your greatest loss, your worst memory…from being your father’s daughter?”
Trisha thoughtful a moment, and then replied, “Ken, there are a lot of them. But, the one that sticks out in my mind still, is my high school graduation. He didn’t make it. Even though, my Mom urged him to sober up for it; even though, I told him I would love to have him there; and even though, he said he would be there…he never appeared.”
“Trisha, you obviously still carry a lot of hurt and anger, about that day. How did you cope with that moment when you realized, he wasn’t going to show up for your graduation day?” I asked her.
“I still remember sitting on the stage with my classmates. I could see the auditorium entrance. I kept watching for him to appear…but he never did!” she said, as tears filled her eyes.
“As you think back to that moment, when you realized he was not going to appear, what did you learn, Trisha?”
“I don’t know, Ken. I remember feeling very hurt…and angry…and frustrated and wanting to scream, ‘Dad, where the hell are you, when I need you?’”
I asked carefully and slowly. “Yes, how you felt was very understandable…but…what did you learn at that moment, Trisha?”
“I guess, I learned I couldn’t depend on him, couldn’t rely on him, even if, I asked him!”
“I realized, I had to depend on myself…”
“So, Trisha, who did you learn to depend on instead?” I asked, again in a soft, slow, clear voice.
Trisha starred off for a few seconds. Then, returned my gaze, and replying with a strong, assertive voice. “It was the day I grew up, Ken! It was the day, I realized, I had to depend on myself, if I was going to have a life.”
“And, has that idea shaped your life since your graduation, Trisha?” I asked.
“It sure has. That’s why I’m in engineering, which had been a boy’s club for a long time. I knew it was what I wanted to study, but if I was to do it, I would have to rely on myself mostly…and, nobody else!”
“It sounds like you place very high value on independence, empowerment and self control?” I said.
“Ken, those attributes are what motivates me in everything I do! Are you suggesting, I learned them from my drunk Dad?” she asked in surprise.
“Trisha, my guess is you have been learning them in lots of places, but I think being your Dad’s daughter enabled you to consolidate and use those vital life skills consciously at a critical point in your life…your graduation. And, your life today is the proof, it has worked out well, for you.”
“Ken, are you saying it was OK for my Dad not to attend my graduation, and hurt me that way?”
“I believe that one defines oneself by reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. To cut yourself out of stone.” -– Henry Rollins, musician
“…there were other benefits, besides the three…”
“Trisha, nature ensures we get hurt and helped, equally, at all times, by all people…and, especially our parents. That’s what love is…equal support and challenge to ensure we learn to survive. Only you can decide if it was OK for your Dad to miss your graduation? But, before you make that decision, there were other benefits, besides the three we just discussed, you received at that moment on your graduation day? Did you notice what they were?”
“No, not really…what are you talking about?”
“Trisha, you received benefits in each area of your life. You said your learned to be independent, empowered and in have self control. They are all mental advantages for your future. But, how did it, also, benefit the rest of your life, such as: your spirit, your career, your finances, your social life, your family relations, and your physical health…because, these are also part of you. Whatever impact one area, impacts the others because they are all parts of you!”
“ I haven’t thought of it that way before. I really don’t know,, Ken!”
“Actually, Trisha…you do…you just have not been noticing them. Would you like me to make a few guesses from what I’ve learned working with other people?”
“Sure!” she replied.
“Trisha, I’ll bet your spirit got stronger, as you sat on that stage, that day. I’ll bet you also became more motivated in your studies, reflected in your studying engineering today. I’ll bet you raised your self-worth a notch higher…the most important form of your wealth. I’ll bet you, also learned, to appreciate some of the friends you had, at that time, in a more special way. I’ll bet you got closer to whoever in your family, was there, that day. And, I’ll bet your learned how to manage the stress of rejection, from someone who you loved…another important life skill.”
“I’m starting to see that…”
Trisha’s eyes were watering again, as she listened. Then, she said, “Ken, as I listen to your guesses…I think each one applies to me in some way. I did become more determined to go on to university, and study engineering…and, I am still close to two of my high school friends…and, my Mom, my siblings, and even my Dad’s brother, Uncle Chad, were there that day, to cheer me on. But, the one benefit that sticks out most clearly was, how empowered I felt, about taking control of my own destiny, from that day forward.”
“Can you see how you needed just the father you had back then, to provide you with the situation, which enabled you, to learn to be who you are today, doing what you do today, and having what you have today. There was no mistake in his absence. The pain was very real…but, so was the pleasure or the benefits, which counterbalanced perfectly your life, at that moment. So, you really have had the perfect father for you? Can you see that now, Trisha?”
“I’m starting to see that…but what about the rest of my family, and the pain they have suffered from my Dad’s drinking, and absence?”
“Each person has exactly the relationships they need, to evolve themselves, for their future. So, each member of your family, can find their own benefits, if they take the time and energy, to do so. For example, using this idea, I suspect you can, already notice, how it served your Mom, to be with your Dad, over the years.” I said.
Trisha stopped again for a moment, thinking, and then said, “Well, Mom has certainly become her own person…and, our family is, actually…really close, we take care of each other, and we are all quite independent in our own unique ways…I see what you mean, Ken!”
“Can you now see, why your friend Amelia, perceives you as a successful person?” I asked.
“It does make more sense to me, now!” she replied.
“And, can you see how you are a victor, not a victim, over your past? You are a stronger, and wiser, person because of the father you have. But, there is a cost to you, as there is to everyone…this is a reflection of nature’s law of balance which is nature’s way to optimize your learning. And, Trisha, there are no exceptions to this law…it applies to everyone. If you’re skeptical, check it out with your relatives and friends. If each person does an honest and thorough evaluation, they will discover they have the ideal life for them to be who they are, do what they do, and have what they have.”
“I really have to think about this more. Can I come back next week with more questions?”
“I would love that, Trisha! Let’s schedule a time right now!”
“When things are bad, it’s the best time to reinvent yourself.” – George Lopez, comedian
“First question, do you need your father to change?”
Trisha returned with many questions, and many other examples, of how she felt cheated by her Dad’s behaviour. But, as we worked through each one, finding the other side, finding how it had both cost and served her, as well, she started broadening her perception of her father, and her past, present and future.
When we were done I told her I wanted to assess her level of integration of the work she had done. I told her there were two questions I was going to ask. Her answers would demonstrate her level of integration. She said she was ready.
I said, “First question, Trisha, do you need your father to change? Or, do you now appreciate him, as he is?”
“Given how his parenting served me in so many ways, I really don’t need or want him to change for me. I know my Dad had a troubled childhood of his own. He may want to get some help with his drinking, but that’s his challenge and decision, not mine. I love him anyway…no matter how sober he is.” she replied, with a soft smile.
“Second question,Trisha, if someone you loved, needed to learn what you needed to learn, would it be OK, if they had the kind of father, you had?” I asked.
“Ken, if they needed to learn to be more independent, more empowered and have more self control, then sure, it would be OK for them to have a father like mine.” she replied smiling.
“Congratulations, Trisha! Welcome to the real, truthful world of nature where they are no victims, only smarter and stronger people, who have the exact experiences they need, to design their own destiny.”
“That’s exactly it isn’t it? My Dad was the perfect one, for me! Now I know! Thank you!”
“Refugees demonstrate daily, we can be victors over our past, today!” – King Ayles, author
Until Next time…
Now you know you don’t have to be a victim of your past, you can become a victor of any trauma, hurt or loss. Locate where you saw yourself as being victimized in your history, and uncover what you learned which changed your life, and enabled you to be reading this post, today. It is there, go find it, and free yourself, and your future, to pursue whatever possibilities, to which, you aspire.
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Our next seminar, “A Transformation Day!” will focus on relationships. It will be on Saturday, February 27th, 2016 at our offices. Details are available at ww.kenpiercepsychologist.com
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
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