Saturday, February 15, 2014

Accountability is not supposed to be a one way street

There is a trend among young adults these days estrange themselves from their parents.

They justify this by blaming their parents for everything that is wrong in their lives.  The list of reasons is as long as the number of families suffering through these estrangements.   Every estranged adult child has a litany of reason why their parents weren't satisfactory.   They use these reasons as excuses to sever relationships with their parents.  They say this is for them a journey to self hood, to emancipation from the values of their parents.  To express themselves.

Young adults have always made this journey through adolescence to adulthood, and most parents, if they are honest with themselves expect their children to undergo some form of emancipation as they establish themselves in their own separate lives.  In fact I would wager that most parents WANT their offspring to lead independent successful lives.  Part of a parent's work is to teach our offspring the skills needed to some day be independent.  Most parents rejoice when they see their children capable of taking on the responsibilities of adult independent lives.  They see this as validation that they did a good job as a parent when their child grows to be an adult that no longer needs them for the requirements of everyday living.   An expression of rebellion and independence is welcomed!

However, something vital has changed!

In order to “express this rebellion” it has seemingly become necessary to lay blame on the parent for something.  It does not matter what the something is so long as they blame the parent for it in such a way as to say “because you did “xyz”  you were a bad parent to me and therefore I will estrange you from my life.

It is no longer enough for the emancipating adult child to just say “I want to do this my way”.  To express their autonomy and thereafter to make their own path is not enough!  

They now feel that they have the right to say to the parent, “if you disagree with me you are wrong and I won’t speak to you until you agree with me”.  They want their way to become the only right way.

They want control over their parent’s thinking, their parent’s feelings, and their parent’s actions.  Some of them label their parents with “armchair psychological symptoms” to assuage their guilt, as in “I can’t be around a toxic person”

Here is where it gets really tricky.  I always supposed that a relationships between adults was based on equality.  Where everyone has the right to their opinion and where friendships are not devalued because of different points of view.

I read an interesting article the other day by Dr Joshua Coleman. In it he says:

“….you talk about your perspective and he or she talks about theirs. You talk about how you felt hurt or misunderstood. Your kid talks about how she or he feels hurt or misunderstood. You put your heads together and make sense of it, and you move on and get closer as a result.

That is not the case once there’s an estrangement in place. It’s not that kind of a dynamic. A lot of adult children say they want a relationship of equality, but in reality, it probably isn't going to be a relationship that feels very equal to you. ….. It requires that you have to give without really expecting very much in return. You’re going to have to reconcile yourself to the fact that it’s a one-way street…” 

Dr. Joshua Coleman goes on to say that if we want a relationship with these estranging adult children we have to play by their rules.

What is this really saying?

It is saying that the estranging adult child wants everything their way.

The estranging adult child wants you to cave to all their demands, accept all the responsibility for everything that is wrong (absolve the adult child of any guilt the may feel over their actions)

The estranging adult child says they want a relationship only if they get to set the rules and play their games with your emotions and your heart.

The estranging adult child is saying; “we are in control of this relationship and you have no say in the matter and if you cross us on any of our rules you will be once again punished with estrangement.

The estranging adult child is saying that you the parent don’t count.  Your feelings don’t count.  You are unimportant.  Only I the adult child am important. 

I find this one way street approach to be incredibly insensitive to my needs as an individual. 

Am I expected to accept rude demeaning behaviour from another adult in order for me to earn the right to be in their life?  Am I expected to put all my needs and my feelings on hold so as not to offend?  Am I, as an adult supposed to allow another adult to manipulate me and control me to the point where I do everything I can to please them or else they will reject me?

I write this and think, isn’t this juvenile school yard behaviour?   Isn’t this reminiscent of what children taunt each other with “I won’t be your friend if you…..”

Am I supposed to become a child bowing down to the school yard bully, only this time the school yard bully is my own adult child, now grown and thinking they have the right to control and manipulate me, my thoughts, my feelings and my emotions?

A find this concept rather hard to swallow.

And let’s say that I do accept these “New Rules” and play that game.  What kind of a relationship would that really be? 

This one way street where I am always wrong and they are always right. 

This scenario where they presume to control me with their demands, while I am expected to acquiesce to their demands.  

Is this really a relationship?  
Sounds more like a dictatorship to me.

So the questions that need to be asked are as follows. 

  • Is a relationship with these emancipated estranging adults worth my self dignity?
  • Can I feel good about myself when I am not true to who I am in order to make them feel good about themselves?
  • What about my personal value as a human being, am I to deny myself the right to be of equal value?
  • And is accepting a one way street relationship even good for my self esteem?
  • Is establishing a one way relationship worth all that I would be expected to give up?
  • Is no relationship better than one where I have to put on a mask and forever pretend to be someone who I am not?
  • Does any relationship asking me to sacrifice my true self this much worth it?

My personal response is NO IT IS NOT!

  • Better my dignity than a relationship where I am forever the trodden upon.
  • Better my own company than the company of those who feel they have the right to control me.
  • Better my own life lived with validation and honesty than one where I put on a mask of supplication and inferiority.
  • I will not sacrifice my value as a human being to aggrandize anyone’s ego.

Alone and Strong

This is my opinion.
I am entitled to my opinion.

In my two way street approach to relationships my opinion is just as valid and valuable as their opinion.

And anyone who feels the need to squash my opinion in order for their opinion to have value is not really welcome in my life.

© Renate Dundys Marrello

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Reflections on "Armchair Psychology"

There is a growing phenomenon that causes me concern.  For lack of a better name I will call it “armchair psychology”.  

Photo courtesy of Wikia
Growing numbers of ordinary people are looking up mental health terminology and diagnosing their family and friends based on these online lists.   People are being diagnosed with mental health issues based on assumptions made about the way they have acted in a particular situation or words they have spoken.  

No therapist is ever visited or consulted, no mental health examination is ever given, and yet a psychological evaluation and diagnosis is made! 

People are being labeled without ever seeing a psychologist, psychiatrist or any other mental health practitioner!  People are being labeled as mentally ill, and even worse, as toxic without any professional mediation or intervention!

The current practice seems to simple be: "if the label fits because of a subjective perception then it must be true". 

“However, just because a particular label 
may work perfectly 
because it fits in with one's own 
subjective perception of who the other person is 
does not make it a true diagnosis.”
                     ~  grandparent alienation is not natural

This growing trend scares me because this is NOT a diagnosis but rather a "speculation".  

These are only speculations and assumptions and yet some people proceed as if this were in fact a medical diagnosis!  

What scares me even more is the fact that people are being shunned based on these assumptions.  They are being gossiped about, half truth stories are told about them behind their back and their reputations are sullied and even destroyed based on these "non-professional speculations".

Because of these “armchair diagnoses”, we are seeing actions being taken, that we would never consider if there were an actual medical diagnosis.   

In the case of a REAL medical diagnosis family and friends rally around and become supportive and try to help the person who is ill to get better.  The person who really is suffering with a mental health issue is lovingly cared for, nurtured and supported. 

In the case of “armchair diagnoses” the labeled person is shunned and tossed away as “defective” without any emotional support. They are left adrift to try to piece together what happened without any loving support from those who should have been by their side. 
What is strikingly missing in the case of “armchair diagnosis” is follow up care and the compassion that a REAL therapist would offer. 

A REAL therapist would be there for every appointment to help and offer support on the healing journey.

A REAL therapist would listen and give feedback and advice.

A REAL therapist would show compassion and consideration and empathy.

A REAL therapist would NOT gaslight or call their patient names or gossip about their patients condition online.

A REAL therapist would suggest healing practices and options and follow up with the patient to ensure that progress is being made.

A REAL therapist would rejoice in every victory on the road to healing with the patient.

These "armchair therapists" that throw around names of conditions while pretending to know what they are talking about don't have any idea how a REAL therapist would label the situation or what kind of help they would offer. And yet these “armchair therapists” throw around labels as if they have a right to diagnose mental health problems. 

If they were to do the same thing in medicine they would be “practicing medicine without a license”. It would be frowned upon and people wouldn't stand for it!  

Yet why are people so quick to accept the opinion of someone “practicing mental health evaluation without a license”? 

I am concerned with this growing practice.  

I am concerned about the damage these "armchair therapists" are wrecking on innocent lives. 

I am concerned about the negative impact this will have on people who have actual diagnosed mental illnesses and how they will be treated because of this prevalent practice.
I have begun to wonder how REAL therapists feel about these "armchair therapists"?

Renate Dundys Marrello
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