“Living according to your highest values is the secret to living an inspired and fulfilling life!” – John Demartini, human behaviour expert
“Why doesn’t he make time for me?”
When Marty called to book a consultation, he said he needed to talk about his son, Hank. He had a very deep voice on the phone, but, I was still not prepared for the giant, who walked into my office!”
Marty was well over six feet tall and two hundred plus pounds. On the outside, he had a rough look and manner, about him… until he opened his mouth. Then, it was clear, on the inside he possessed a soft, gentle demeanor.
Marty told me he had raised his son, single handed, from birth. Hank’s mother, Karen was still involved. But, it was a somewhat detached relationship she had with her only child. After Hank’s birth, she had moved to Vancouver to pursue her career, and had never returned.
Marty and Karen had never been married, but, had been together two years until just after Hank’s birth, when she decided her future was elsewhere. She had helped financially with Hank’s upbringing but emotionally was…what both Marty and Hank called, ‘detached.”
Hank was almost 33 years old now, and was a well paid researcher for a pharmaceutical company in Houston, Texas. He was not in a serious relationship…but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Hank seemed to be one of those single, unattached individuals who hadn’t settled yet on a specific lifestyle.
It was evident, Marty was very proud of Hank and all that he had accomplished. But what annoyed him about his son…and which he had never mentioned to him…was his absence. Hank had finished school over eight years ago, and started work immediately.
But, Hank had not been home in over five years. Yet, Marty added, he frequently took vacations to exotic locations, and even invited Marty to go with him on occasion. Marty said, he seems to be avoiding coming home to see him, and his family.
Marty summed up his hurt and frustration with, “Why doesn’t he make time for me…I’m his Dad!
“…it is the only job we get to practice, with no training!”
I said, “Marty, it sounds like Hank places a high value on his independence?”
“He sure does, Ken. He has always been that way, ever since he was a little kid.” he replied.
“And, he also seems to have a priority on travelling…which is really just another word for learning…does that fit too, Marty?”
“Yes, it does…he is a very curious person, always has been eager to see, and do, new things.”
“Marty, do you see Hank as making his own way financially, and in his career, as well?” I asked.
“Yes he is doing that too, Ken. But, let me give you an example of what’s been going on. I have a camp on the Miramichi River and we spent every summer at it. We have been doing that since he was born…he loves it there. But now, he won’t come near it. It doesn’t seem to interest him at all…I just don’t understand that!”
“Marty, there are two ideas I can offer you that might help you to understand Hank and also, yourself. Would that interest you?”
“It sure would…because right now I’m just confused…it’s like I must have done something wrong, but I can figure out what it could be…do you know what I mean?”
“I sure do, Marty. Parenting is one of the toughest jobs in the world, and, as they say, ‘it is the only job we get to practice, with no training!’’”
“Many times, that’s exactly what it felt like to me.” he replied with a half smile breaking through his concern.
“But, in nature, every relationship has both, the good and the bad.”
“Marty, the first idea to know about is values. You have collected from your life experiences a personal set of ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ or rights and wrongs which you use to guide your life, and your decision making. And each person has their own unique set of these values. Yours are different from mine and even from your parents’, siblings’, closest friends’, and especially Hanks’.”
“Ken, are you saying, Hank may not value the camp the way I do because he may have different memories from me, about it?”
“Yes, I am Marty. And, he may have other priorities for his time than being at the camp…even though, he may have valued it as a child…but, it is not necessarily about avoiding being with you…but rather, his values take him somewhere else, at this point in his life.”
“I never thought of that way before. My Mom, Hank’s Grandmother, said much the same thing to me a while back…but, I never gave it much importance.”
“Marty, wisdom is often found in the very old, and the very young. The second idea that can help you in this situation is to understand the nature of relationships…there are balanced…and Marty,… balanced, perfectly.”
“I’m not sure I understand what you mean, Ken.”
“Marty, you are alive and well today because everything that has happened to you so far in your life has enabled you to survive and thrive. That means every relationship has also contributed. Some of your relationship you notice mostly the good stuff. And in others, you notice mostly the bad stuff. But, in nature, every relationship has both, the good and the bad. With me so far?”
“You’re saying every relationship helped me survive, and every relationship has both good and bad in it…it that it, Ken?”
“Almost, it is also important to remember the good and bad are balanced… perfectly equal, in compliance with the law of symmetry. This means, for example, parenting is wonderfully-painful! Of course Marty, you already know that! But, I suspect you haven’t been noticing the benefits to your of your relationship with Hank?”
“Benefits…I never see him! How could there be any benefits?” he replied sarcastically.
“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.”
— Roy E. Disney, businessman
“I bet you were…but, what did you do at that moment?”
“Marty, seeing one side of something is just a ‘blind spot’ in your awareness. We all have them because of our values. And, they are also important areas of learning for our future. So, let’s uncover some truths about your relationship with your son. Find a clear memory of a time when you were really annoyed that Hank wasn’t making time for you, and tell me about it.”
“That’s easy enough! Just last week…with the summer over, I was thinking about Thanksgiving. I emailed him about coming home for that long weekend in October. He replied he was behind at work, and was going to use the holiday to catch up.”
“Marty, at that moment, when you got his response, what did you do?”
“I was really disappointed, hurt and,…actually…angry, too!”
“I bet you were, which is understandable…but, what did you do, at that moment?”
He paused for a moment, thinking back. Then he said, “Well, I was at home at my desktop computer when he answered. So, I replied right away. I said, I was disappointed he wouldn’t be able to make it home as I was hoping, we could attend the family BBQ at his Aunt Janie’s place, together. I also reminded him how long it had been since he was home, and then I added, I felt like he was avoiding me.”
“Marty, imagine freezing that moment in time, like it was on a video. Now let’s look at what is going on in this very second of your life. The law of balance says ,while you were feeling hurt and angry, you were getting some equal benefits. Let’s uncover them.”
“All I remember is feeling hurt and angry. I just don’t see benefits, Ken!”
“I only know, I don’t regret saying what I did!”
“Did you notice, what you said to Hank was setting an expectation on him of what you wanted as his father…that he come home to visit you, and your family? Can you see you were establishing a boundary in your relationship with him?”
“I suppose so! But, what’s the benefit in that, for me?”
“Were you not honouring your values as a person, as a father, and as a member of your family, Marty?” I asked.
“Yes, I guess I was, wasn’t I?” he said.
“And, didn’t that feel pretty good to get that out to him, directly, at that second?”
“He paused again, and then said, “You know Ken, it did feel good to get that off my chest…I have been wanting to say it, for a long, long time.”
“So, Marty, you have uncovered how in that moment in time, you honoured important values you have; you felt relieved to say something that’s been bothering you for a while, and you set a clear expectation for your relationship with Hank. Knowing you achieved those three things, how does it impact how you see yourself?” I asked.
“I’m not sure!” he replied, hesitantly.
“Marty, can you see how you protected, and strengthened, your spirit, and gained more self esteem and self confidence?”
“Ken, I only know, I don’t regret saying what I did! And, I’m determined to go to the BBQ with, or without him, because family is one of my highest values!” he said with a tight and determined look on his face.
“That’s exactly the point here, Marty! There was no mistakes in that event. It did cause you pain, but, it equally gave you the opportunity to honour who you are, and what you stand for, and what you expect, from your son as a member of your family. And, it also enabled you to reduce your stress, and grow in self worth. Can you see that now?” I asked.
“Your values are the learning tools for your destiny!” – King Ayles, writer
“…it has kinda been the story of my life in many ways.”
“Yes, Ken, I do! But, why should I have to do this at this point in my life…this is my son…he is an adult! Shouldn’t he know better? Did I raise him wrong?”
“Marty, you’re asking two of the most important questions any person can ask…Why me? and Why now? And the answer is: So you can learn important information for your future survival!”
“My future survival…I don’t get it.” he said, clearly confused.
“Marty, each of us is attracted to those events which prepare us for our future. My guess would be you have a history of not asserting yourself in significant relationships…of not honouring your own values first…perhaps deferring to the values of others instead, at your own expense? Does that sound like a familiar pattern in your past?”
Marty suddenly sat back in the chair, looked past me, out my office window, while his eyes started glistening with moisture. There was a long, poignant pause and when he composed himself, he said, “Ken, you just described my relationship with my mother, and Karen, Hank’s mother. I have so many memories of giving in to them, ignoring what I wanted, and feeling hurt and frustrated…it has kinda been the story of my life in many ways.”
“Can you see now, your request for Hank to come home is not really about Hank or Thanksgiving or even family…it is really about you learning to be your own person, and live your life according to your own values?”
Marty was quiet again for a few moments. Then he said, “Wow! It’s like I’m actually fortunate Hank is who he is, and lives his own life, his own way…otherwise I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn to stand up for me, and appreciate myself!” he replied.
“As I honour my own values first, I notice I’m getting more respect from people…”
“That’s it Marty, exactly! Hank is the perfect son for you to be who you are, do what you do, and have what you have. And, it’s a two way street. You’re the perfect father for him, because he learns what he needs to ensure his future…and it sure looks like he is doing OK, as well!” I added.
Marty went on to find many other examples of this pattern with other people in his life. He realized he had not been valuing himself enough and committed himself to consciously live by his own values. It was interesting to watch his evolution from this heightened level of self awareness.
One day, near the end of our work, he said, “You know Ken, it has been interesting how my relationship with Hank has evolved, since I began working with you. As I honour my own values first, I notice I’m getting more respect from people…and especially, Hank!”
“Marty, would you give me an example?”
“Sure…on my birthday he called me, which was unusual in itself. He said he didn’t realize how important it was to me, that he come home. He said I could expect to see him, at least annually, from now on, and he had just found a great deal on a new fishing rod.”
I replied, smiling, “No mistakes, Marty, eh?”
“No mistakes, Ken!” he said, mirroring the smile.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words,Your words become your actions,Your actions become your habits,Your habits become your values,Your values become your destiny.” – Mahatma Gandhi, leader
Until Next time…
Now you know, if you put other people’s values before your own, you generate disrespect, to motivate you to be your own person, and live by your own values. In this way you grow your self confidence, self esteem and self worth. Don’t waste another day trying to live inside someone’s values, live inside you own, and optimize your own learning and evolution.
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