Happy New Year everyone!
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I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with my dad. I found this Christmas season hard because of our relationship. In a nutshell, I know he loves me. But he doesn’t understand me and I feel like he makes no effort to. This hurts. It feels like rejection.
Over the holidays I came up with some strategies to deal with it. You can use these if they apply:
1. I will accept the fact that I’ve always been hard to understand. I’m a complex person. I’ve always been described as an anomaly wrapped up in an enigma. I can’t even understand myself! Why should I expect any different from my dad? Maybe I should cut him some slack here.
2. I will stop thinking that not being understood always means rejection. My dad loves me as his son. I do think he rejects some of my ideas and the way I sometimes behave. I do feel I’ve disappointed him. But this doesn’t necessarily mean he rejects me totally.
3. I will assume that he does understand me at the capacity he is able to understand me. I am complicated and don’t fit into his categories. So he understands what he understands of me and the rest he ignores or rejects. I let this hurt me because I want to be totally loved and respected by him for everything that I am. But maybe this is an unreasonable expectation.
4. I will try to understand him. I know it’s not fair. He doesn’t sit me down and ask me where I’m coming from and why I think the way I do and am the way I am. But I can attempt to understand him. In fact, the more I understand him the more I understand why he doesn’t understand me. If I were him I wouldn’t understand me either. If I were in his shoes I would be just as baffled by me and maybe even disappointed in me too. In fact, he might think he understands me and that I’m just wrong. Simple as that!
5. I will make gestures, therefore, to make myself more understandable and explain my wrongness. He’s failed in trying to understand me or considering my point of view. Or at least he’s failed in letting me know that he’s trying. Or perhaps I’ve failed in seeing his efforts. But I am adult now and I can take steps to help him understand me. So this last week I sent him my new book Questions are the Answer. I hope he reads it. And if he does, I hope it helps him understand his complicated son better.
6. I will let go of my fantasy. Much of our suffering is caused by holding on to our fantasies. I have a fantasy about my father that remains a fantasy. He isn’t been the father I fantasize about. But he is the father I have. If I let go of the fantasy, I release my expectations not only from myself but from him too. Can I receive him and love him as he is? I’ve wished for that from him, so the least I can do is do that for him.
7. I will realize this may open the door to further misunderstanding. I am an expert in avoiding conflict. You wouldn’t think so because I seem to be in the middle of it all the time. This is how I’ve navigated around my dad… by avoiding the controversial. So, opening the door from my side opens the door to his as well. I may need to be prepared to be true to myself while speaking about difficult issues. Perhaps I can practice a zen-like emotional detachment while doing it. I can be thinking that he loves me but is confused about me. I think I can do this. If necessary.
The truth is, this is one of my goals for 2016. Not just for my father, but for everyone. People always tell me I confuse them. I frequently get asked what I believe. So this year I want to try to articulate myself more clearly and fully. I want to write my z-theory… articulate a good, concise explanation of my philosophy and theology. My statement.
I’m not suggesting this is going to be easy with my dad and with others. It’s not. The fantasy is very attractive and clings like glue.
But, I’m going to try. That’s all I ask from others. So that’s all I’ll ask of myself. To try.
And, there’s also this: my own children may need to apply these strategies when it comes to me. Who knows?! I don’t think so. But my sincerity doesn’t make me innocent. I might be thinking I understand them or am trying, but they might believe I haven’t made enough effort. We all have room to grow.
I hope you found this helpful!
Much love and happiness in the new year.