And then parents say, “They’re a nightmare.” “I don’t know my child anymore.” “I feel deskilled.” “I’m not in control of my family.”
And I’m like, you know what, take your eye off your kids for a minute because all they’re doing is showing you where your weak point is. If you’re busy doing the washing-up, and you’re kind of stressed, and they come in and start going, “Mum, mum, mum, mum… ,” then you need to know that they have chosen that exact moment because it gives them exactly what they want.
And what you’re going to do is, “Oh, go on then, go on the PlayStation. I don’t care; do what you want.”
“Well, yeah! I got exactly what I wanted.”
If you’re able to stand there and think, “I’m feeling really irritated. I’m feeling like put under pressure,” and you know that, you can actually stand there and think, “I’m getting really cross here,” and you can say, “Listen, I’ve just said ‘no.'”
Now, if your child does not know that you’ve got a ‘no’ up your sleeve, and that you can hold a ‘no,’ they will push, and push, and push. Once they know you can hold a ‘no,’ once they know that you can actually give them a boundary that they can push safely up against, then they will respect it. So if you can stand there and be in touch with your feelings, and instead of behaving like, “Oh, for god’s sake, just go away,” and then they’re off happy, and you’re thinking, “Why am I so upset?” You can actually say, “I need you to calm down; the answer’s ‘no.'”
And then they nag, and nag, and nag, you need to be thinking, “Wow I must have given in a lot in the past, for them to be so persistent.
Not, “Why are you doing this to me?” No.
I’ve set you up for this, and I actually need to start getting a handle on how I behave as a result of how I feel, otherwise I am not going to know me, I’m going to be in resentment against my kids, I’m going to be feeling “poor me,” I’m going to be in that space of expectation and resentment, which is a pernicious cycle.
And then perhaps in comes a husband: “What’s all this going on in here? What’s all this noise?”
And you’re like: “It’s nothing, don’t worry.”
“What you mean it’s nothing? I am trying to get on… What’s she doing on the PlayStation again?”
And you’re just in there, angry, upset. You’re picking a fight now with your husband, you’re feeling isolated. And you’re thinking: “What about me? Why is it always me who has to do everything around here?” And you’ll find that the family dynamics, subtle as they may be, start to fracture a little, and maybe like I did as I grew up, one of these children might start to think that they’re difficult. I was told that I was difficult, as I grew up, and I believed it.
And so somewhere deep inside me, before I was even 13, I believed that if you got close to me, that if you got to know me, you’d find out that I’m not what I look like, that there’s something wrong with me, and I felt that you would reject me. So there’s no way I’m actually going to let you close.
So I used to spend my life playing, performing, people-pleasing, being defiant, being the rebel, being anyone, anything other than me, because if you get close to me, it’s going to hurt.
But suddenly, when I discover something more potent than all those behaviors, that does the job, defends me from feeling vulnerable in front of you, because believe me, I judge how I feel against how you look, and that sets me up to lose because I can’t see your frailties if I’m in my self-centered fear.
If I’m thinking, I’m going to go out somewhere, and I’m full of that fear, and I’m thinking, “I don’t know what to wear, I don’t know anybody there, I don’t know what to say, I’m not interesting, I am not funny and I go into the room with all of that, I’m not looking at anyone else, I’m walking into the room like that. And I’ll probably pick up somebody who’s codependent, a caretaker, so they’d go, “Would you like a drink? Are you okay?”
And they’re looking for someone like me to take care of, and we can stand together, pretending to be at a party together, but actually all we’re doing is preventing each other from feeling vulnerable and isolated.
If I know I am in my self-centered fear, if I know I’m in that space whereby there’s a sense, maybe an early childhood sense that there is something wrong with me, I can actually put my arm around myself, and I can say, “You know, Mandy, I love you. I love you, and I’m going to be with you, and we can do this thing. And it’s not all about you, there are loads of people there, go and chat to someone. Just go and have a conversation with someone; it’s not such a big deal.”
And I manage to take myself out of that fear, suddenly, I am available to talk to you, I am available to live.
So when we’re treating addiction, sure, we got to get people sober from whatever their addictive pattern is, but then we need to get them out of the self-harming behaviors so that when they look in the mirror, they’re not going, “Oh my god, I’m so wrinkly, it’s disgusting.” No! That is self-harming thinking. I want you to look in the mirror, and I want you to get to know your face; I want you to appreciate the lines on your face like they are the map of your life. Wherever the pain is, wherever the carving is and the shaping is, it’s yours.
And when you look in the mirror to really appreciate that and to make the best friend you can of yourself because if you are friends with yourself, you will not persistently do something to yourself, to hurt yourself over and over again.