Why Not Get Your Hopes Up?

Are you waiting for potential good news but you’re not sure it’s going to happen?

Get your hopes up and enjoy those good feelings till the ballots are in!

If it turns out to be a no-go, you won’t be any less disappointed than you would have been anyway.

If the news is good and you get what you were hoping for, then you won’t be hoping for it any more; you’ll just be enjoying it.

Hope’s delicious. See my recent post on how to make the most of it:

Go Ahead: Get Your Hopes Up! | Psychology Today.

Confidence, Self-Esteem, and the KLT Factor

confident_womanEveryone wants to feel confident.

It seems like at least half of my therapy clients mention confidence as an area they want to work on.

But confidence isn’t something you can put on like a hat. It is a natural byproduct of knowing, liking and trusting yourself.

I recently wrote a post about this for GoodTherapy.org. Check it out at the following link:

Confidence, Self-Esteem, and the KLT Factor: Know, Like, Trust

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Listening Is the Cheapest Medicine

Psychotherapy has been called “The Talking Cure.”

It might be more accurate to call it “The Listening Cure.”

Being listened to is healing, because it’s a way to be understood.

And being understood is like a tall, cool drink on a hot summer day.

Marriage & family therapist Cynthia Lubox speaks eloquently about the power of being listened to in this article:

When Someone Really Listens, We Heal

The key word in the title above is “Really.” As in, when someone really listens…

We don’t heal just by having someone hear our words. We heal when we feel truly and deeply heard.

A True Friend Hears What You Don’t Say

I once had a powerful experience of being heard, where I didn’t have to say a word.

It happened at, of all places, a bachelorette party.

It was the beginning of the evening, and we were all sitting down to dine at a restaurant. The atmosphere was noisy and chaotic.

I don’t remember the details, but maybe I was subtly ignored or dissed by one of the other women as we were taking our seats. Whatever it was, I was shocked and humiliated.

I remember feeling stung but assuming no one else noticed — there were many conversations going on at the same time.

Suddenly I heard a whisper in my ear. It was the voice of a good friend, who’d seated herself beside me.

“I’m totally with you,” she said.

I turned and looked her in the eye, and saw that she had heard my silent scream of “Ouch!”

She’d noticed what had happened between the other woman and me, and with a look she told me what she thought of the woman’s behavior.

I was instantly cured of what ailed me. In that moment, my feelings had been heard even though I hadn’t uttered a word.

It meant so much to me to be “heard” in that moment, I felt 100% better. My friend’s empathy removed the thorn and put on a soothing bandage of validation.

You can make a huge difference to someone just by listening to them, and understanding their experience. It’s an incredibly bonding thing to do, so it helps you as well as them.

Let’s all try to be there for someone we care about this week. Or maybe for someone we barely know.

When you see someone in distress, let them know you understand.

Listen to them, even if they don’t say a word.

Let me know how it goes.

Differentiation, Part 2

In last week’s post I talked about how differentiation can contribute to estrangement between parents and their young adult children.

This continuation of that post talks about the married adult child, and offers some tips to help you trust the process.

Remember, differentiation is a normal and healthy part of human development. It’s not due to a lack of gratitude or character.

Everyone goes through differentiation, and if you pay very close attention to your own relationship to your parents, you’ll see it in action!

The Married Adult Child

If your adult child is in his/her 20s, it’s likely that differentiation is at least partly, if not entirely, to blame for his or her reluctance to stay in touch.

But pulling away from parents can happen at any time throughout the lifespan. So don’t assume your 39-year-old is immune. He’s not.

Sometimes marriage seems to create a catalyst for estrangement. The adult child chooses a mate, and soon after starts cutting ties with Mom and Dad.

Although this can be spurred on by a jealous new spouse, statistically it’s probably just as likely that the new partner is the final piece that needed to fall into place for the adult child to make that big push toward individuation.

Often once the adult child has the security of a loving partner, he can take the steps he’s been needing to take toward being his own person.

The process might be partially or entirely unconscious, of course.

So what is an estranged parent to do when it feels like you’ve lost your adult child forever?

Support his developmental process by being interested, rather than threatened, by activities and interests that diverge from your own.

Once the main thrust of individuation is under way, your adult child may be more able to tolerate family-of-origin contact — particularly if his parents understand their new role in his life as fans rather than guardians or guides.

Making Amends

Are you worried that you might have done your child wrong, and that’s why she’s estranged? If you are, join the millions of other parents who prove their qualifications by questioning them.

By all means apologize if you feel you let your child down. See my post on how to apologize and seek the help of a counselor to sort through it all.

But if your estranged adult child hasn’t indicated that you did anything wrong, try not to take the estrangement personally.

Especially if she’s under 30, assume it’s differentiation in action. Trust the process.

Every once in a while you can let her know you’re there. But take a giant step back.

Love your adult child, don’t need her.

It’s very important to realize that your child might not understand her own actions. She may feel terribly guilty and not know why she doesn’t want to be close right now.

Most people don’t realize that differentiation is a normal and necessary part of life.

If it seems appropriate, share this post with your adult child. It will help keep the lines of communication open, even when they’re silent.

Photo courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

See also:


Differentiation: “Normal” Estrangement From Parents?

young woman holding out her handDo you have an adult child under 30 who’s pulling away from you?

It could be part of a normal process of development called differentiation.

We all know that children eventually (or rapidly!) grow into adults, but not without going through some developmental stages.

It’s easy to see these stages in kids’ behavior when they’re young. For example, something they used to love is now boring, or vice versa.

But technically, all of us remain adolescents until we’re 25. And even after that, we continue to develop and change throughout our lives.

“Who Am I?”

Differentiation is one of the most important developmental tasks we face in life. As we grow, we form our own identities as adults, distinct from our families of origin.

This process generally doesn’t happen all at once. Most of us will work on it throughout our lives.

If you’ve ever felt inexplicably stressed out, or like a younger version of yourself, while visiting your own parents, you’ve felt the ache of unfinished differentiation business.

At some point their lives, most people leave their parents’ home either physically or psychologically in order to forge their own path in life.

Usually there’s some physical separation from family that occurs naturally, such as when young people go off to college or to travel when they come of age.

It’s psychological and emotional separation, however, that helps with the process of adult identity formation.

Parenting the Differentiating Young Adult

The mature parent-child relationship is different, but by no means less loving, than the early parent-child relationship.

Parents will always be parents. But the nature of the parent role changes from one of total responsibility to one of enjoying the fruits of those early parenting labors.

Parents of adult children take a loving interest in the activities of their now-independent offspring, but they’re no longer responsible for their welfare.

Mature parents can still hold a respected, though no longer necessarily central, position in their children’s lives.

The child’s role changes drastically, too, as she turns into an adult.

She has to navigate the gradual shift from being completely dependent to becoming a free agent, operating by her own internal guidance system.

This shift to adulthood means the child has to figure out who she is as an independent entity, and what her life is going to look like. How will it be the same as her parents’? How might it be different?

Parents give their young adults psychological space (e.g., by not being “in their business”), young adults work to consolidate their own personalities, and the relationship resumes.

Giving Them Space

Sometimes this necessary process of differentiation is hard for adult children because of an extremely close relationship with one or both parents.

The transition from childhood to adulthood can be impeded by parent, child or both sensing a change in the relationship that feels alarming to them. The status quo is comforting in its familiarity.

The young adult is, in some ways, still a child. But in important ways, he’s grown into an individual whose interests or desires are unique to him — no longer just a reflection of his parents’ values.

He needs psychological and emotional room to find out who he is, independently of his family.

The space young people take often ends up being physical, because that’s the easiest way to set boundaries.

It may be harder for him to say to his parents, “I don’t want to see you every week” than it is for him to move to Cincinnati.

That way, there’s no question of whether he’ll be home for dinner on Sunday (he won’t), and he can have some of the freedom he needs during this time of growth.

This can be a confusing and painful time for parents. What happened to the love? Where did the respect go? What did I do wrong?

Trust the Process

If your adult child is in his/her 20s, it’s likely that differentiation is at least partly, if not entirely, to blame for his or her apparent reluctance to stay in touch.

You know the saying, “If you love something, set it free… “?

Remember how the rest of it goes: “If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.”

If your child was ever yours, you’ve got a good basis for having her come back when she’s through with the upheaval of this task and more or less on the other side.

So take heart! … And maybe take up a hobby. See your friends. Do the things you never had time to do when they were young.

Inspire your children with your zest for life.

(See the follow-up post, Differentiation, Part 2)