“To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves – there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.” – Joan Didion, author
“…but, there was a problem for Callum.”
Callum was a fisherman who worked on his Dad’s boat. Callum was 28 years old and had the muscular build of someone who either worked out or had been hauling lobster traps for a while. He had blond hair and striking blue eyes, but his face was otherwise unremarkable.
His father, Callum senior (Cal for short) had been on the water over 50 years. Callum, however, had been walking on the water for only ten. Callum senior’s back had bothered him for years. And, he had recently had an unsuccessful surgery. So, he decided to retire to the shore and pass his boat and gear to Callum.
It seemed a straightforward enough succession at first blush…but, there was a problem for Callum. His father was a bossy, dictatorial captain, quick to tell his crew what they needed to be doing and how quickly to get it done. And, this especially applied to his son. Callum had been OK with this in the past since it was his Dad’s boat, and he was the ‘captain.’ But, if he was going to be the ‘new captain,’ he didn’t want his father interfering.
“Never violate the sacredness of your individual self-respect.” – Theodore Parker, theologian
“I need him to back off and let me do it my own way…”
That shouldn’t have been a problem except his Dad made frequent references during family gatherings of how he was going to go out on the boat ‘periodically’ to “help the crew and make sure everything was shipshape.”
Callum didn’t want this to happen and didn’t know how to deal with his father on such a delicate family matter. As well, Callum was planning to invest in updating the boat’s radar and other electronics which would involve a substantial investment. New fangled equipment was something Cal had always frowned upon to his crew and his son.
As Callum described his situation, I said,
“It sounds like a delicate situation, Callum. What is it that concerns you the most?”
“Ken, I love my Dad! But, I don’t operate the way he does. And, I know he means well…he wants to be a help. But, I don’t need his help to run the boat. I need him to back off and let me do it my own way…make my own mistakes, if need be. Do you know what I mean?” he said, his frustration and confusion reflected in his voice and face.
“… I don’t want to hurt his feelings or create a family feud…”
“It sounds like you need to live your life and run the boat with your values, not your Dad’s.” I said, seeing if I was mirroring what he had said.
“Yes, that’s it exactly…my values, my way because it will be my boat and my business.”
“It also sounds like your Dad’s style was to be ‘bossy’ and now you are being challenged to stand up to him and assert your own style? Does that fit?”
“Yes it does. But, I don’t want to hurt his feelings or create a family feud, either.”
“Do you remember standing up to your father in the past, Callum?”
“That’s not my strong suit, Ken. I have tended to let Dad have his way. I wanted to at times, but I hesitated. The one time I did challenge him, he took it out on Mom, so I have backed off pretty much since.” he replied, fear and insecurity surfacing in his voice.
“The great thing in the world is not so much to seek happiness as to earn peace and self-respect.”
– Thomas Huxley, scientist
“…unless you’re willing to design your own destiny, someone who loves you, will try to do it for you…”
“Does this holding back of your own values occur with other people in your life Callum?” I asked, wondering how pervasive this strategy was elsewhere.
He paused hesitantly before saying in a self- deprecating tone,
“Yeah, I do the same thing with my wife, Calina. You know, for being a big man physically, I’m really quite a wimp at times.”
“Callum, one of the primary purposes of a family is to learn to set respectful boundaries with others. Without this skill, our future is jeopardized.”
“That means unless I learn to do that, my future is not really mine. It will belong to someone else. It’s like I will be first Cal’s son or Calina’s spouse…but not, Callum!”
“That’s what can happen. You’ve just figured out, unless you’re willing to design your own destiny, someone who loves you, will try to do it for you…can you see that?”
“… be willing to learn and be willing to take risks.”
“Yeah, I do see that. I’ve been watching it happen to me.”
“Designing your own destiny will require you to do two things, be willing to learn and be willing to take risks. Are you prepared to do that, Callum?”
“If I don’t Ken, I’ll never be satisfied with myself, will I?”
“That’s nature’s way…no pain, no gain!”
“Then, I’m ready! Let’s do it!”
“OK, we are going to start with some basic laws of nature which are running you and your life. Then, we’re going to update your perceptions of yourself and your Dad.”
“And, then what?”
“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.”
– Joan Didion, author
“When you respect yourself, you generate respect from others…”
“After that, we will look at your perceptions of your Mom and Calina. The purpose of this work is to help you incorporate your life experiences into an up to date perception of how your relationships and your life…actually work.”
Then, I added,
“While we’re doing that we will also uncover your life purpose and top ten values so you can incorporate this information into how you make all future decisions.”
“I like the sound of that, Ken!” he said, with a soft smile lighting his face.
Callum did the work required to raise his awareness and update his perceptions of himself and his life. He soon realized the necessity of setting clear boundaries with his father and also with his partner, Calina.
Once, he identified how it would also benefit them to have clear boundaries in their relationships, he was more ready and willing to take the risks involved. Callum realized only then, he could build the kind of future he wanted.
I recall one of the last things he remarked to me was,
“Dad actually seems relieved I didn’t need him near the boat at all…it’s like he is more free to relax and spend time with Mom. And, Calina and I seem even closer since I have been asserting myself more…go figure?”
“When you respect yourself, you generate respect from others…go figure?” I said smiling
“Self-respect is recognizing everything has a price.” – King Ayles, author
Until Next time…
Now you know, an important role of family life is to enable us to learn to set boundaries with other people. This is a vital skill for establishing healthy future relationships with everybody. Without this ability it is difficult, if not impossible, to design your own destiny. You can only be you…with your own purpose and values. To try to live by the values of anyone else is to court disaster.
YOUR NEXT OPPORTUNITY TO UNCOVER YOUR PERFECTION:
“A COUPLES’ TRANSFORMATION DAY”
Saturday, June 17th, 2017
Suite #3 The Pierce Institute Offices
549 North River Road, Charlottetown, PE
Here is your chance to:
- Confirm Your Relationship Commitment!
- Conquer Relationships Challenges!
- Build More Emotional Stability!
- Settle Financial Disputes!
- Create A Social Life!
- Resolve Parenting Issues!
- Reinvigorate Your Intimacy!
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Register Today! There are no mistakes, only learning opportunities for your future well being!
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
Be well…balanced! Ken
Further information: www.kenpiercepsychologist.com