When I read my post later with my coach hat on I saw that it was very emotional, dramatic, filled with cognitive distortions and a little childish. I posted it 5 minutes after he hung up on me. In retrospect, not my best decision ever. Oh well.
My relationship with my father has not been great for the past 10 years, and that final phone call has been building for some time. At the time I felt justified and self-righteous, I didn’t think I was hurt and angry, but I was. I was touched by the outpouring of support and kind comments I received, and I’m very glad that I connected with others who have had similar estrangements from family members. Now I can case study myself and how I’m processing it all. As you know by now, it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you perceive it that matters.
The long story about my relationship with my father isn’t really that relevant, it’s just my story. What struck me about my post afterwards was my childish self-righteousness, and that I talked about my hope for a different kind of relationship with him. I continued feeling self-righteous about it right up until a coaching colleague said, “that was an interesting post, I hope you’re well and moving on with grace.” Even though I have had coaching on myself about this relationship over the years, what I realised then that I hadn’t used any of my coaching skills on myself to process this event, and the underlying judgements were still there. Ah blind spots! My reaction was just that, a reaction. Understandable, but not vey graceful, emotionally mature or inspiring.
When you are self-righteous, then you are believing that your values are more important than the other persons. Everyone’s values are different, and often in families one persons values will be completely opposite to the other persons. No-one’s values are right or wrong, they are just different. Your values create your behaviour and your ideas about what is important and what is not. So, for example, if someone values growth, creativity and self-expression, and the other person values stability, conservatism, and modesty, then each person could view the other persons behaviour and choices as very strange and “wrong”.
“No one will remain faithful to you unless it fits with his or her own value hierarchy. There is no such thing as being true to a woman or a man .. only to one’s own values.” Dr John Demartini
I realised only recently that many of my negative opinions and judgements about my father are cognitive distortions, and that if I imagine myself in his shoes, with his mindset, and his life-experiences, he probably thinks many similar negative judgements about me.
I was judging him based on my opinions, thoughts and beliefs about how a father “should” be. (Notice that word, another distortion…) I hoped for a certain kind of behaviour, but projected the idea that he was not capable of it, and then became disappointed, hurt and emotional when he did not match up to my fantasy ideal in my head. (fulfilling my projected belief). He is also judging me and my behaviour about how he imagines a daughter “should” be. Our love for each other was conditional.
We all need to set boundaries about what kind of behaviour we are willing to accept in our lives. Often the emotional meltdowns and outbursts are just what we need to gather enough impetus to overcome the inertia of just putting up with things and actually speak our truth, set new boundaries, grow, and make a change. Boundaries are about what you say “yes” and “no” to. Saying nothing about something you are unhappy with is the same as saying yes to it. It’s often very difficult to say “no, I won’t put up with that” about some behaviour, particularly when it is being done by someone you love. It’s equally difficult when it is behaviour within yourself! In this way the building emotion gathers force to help you make a stand and a change. Anger and frustration are particularly useful for helping you to set a boundary. They are not useful to hold onto, in a grudge, or in conditional love.
When all is said and done, it’s time to release the leftover emotions. This is kind of like a bank reconciliation, where your perception comes into balance with the multifaceted and glorious truth of reality. Nothing is all good, nor is it all bad, it is equally both. Distortions that cause you to perceive more good than bad or more bad than good, are distortions, not the truth.
One of my mentors, Dr John Demartini has a Breakthrough Process, that asks you to find the good in things that you think are bad, and the bad in things that you think are good to balance the equation. He says when your perception is totally balanced there is no judgements or even forgiveness, only absolute unconditional love for the complete person as they are, what is and what has been. (Forgiveness still presupposes that something has been done wrong, and puts one persons values above anothers.)
“Infatuation is blind to the negatives, and resentment can’t see the positives. True love is whole and witnesses both sides equally.”
Dr John Demartini
Write the answers out to these questions to help yourself to release and balance emotions of self-righteousness, anger, hurt, etc. about a particular person.
After working through these questions myself I realise now that I wouldn’t be the person I am today with the amazing and loving family that I have if I didn’t experience all the “good” and “bad” things that I did. My relationship with my father has caused a lot of my personal growth, and now I can be truly thank ful for him, exactly as he is, and love him unconditionally.
Reference: These questions are inspired by the Breakthrough Method. You can find more information about Dr Demartinis Breakthrough 2 day courses here. I highly recommend his programs.
On a personal note: A big thank you to all who sent me messages of support and love through this! I very much appreciated them. Also very big thank you to my wonderful colleagues and friends, Ben Lucas & Carl Massy, who subtly called on me to rise above my story. Check out both of their inspiring blogs.
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