Choosing between parents
After our last talk I advised him to talk with his dad about the experience just after the divorce. The experience where he had his tonsils removed and for the first time he felt he had to choose between parents…
‘Choosing between parents’ is the follow up blog off: The effects of divorce on a child (in later life).
In this blog I described my encounter with a student who came to me because of his procrastination and anxiety issues. We couldn’t have suspected that the divorce of his parents had something to do with these issues…continue reading to get a sense of how our minds and emotions create our reality.
When something is physically unbearable
‘I havent talked to my dad yet, it somehow seems like a difficult thing to talk about’. ‘I’ll do it another time’.
As I am talking with him he tells me that he feels guilty all the time. He feels he is ‘not allowed’ to put blame on any other person. ‘I should be able to deal with whatever I create’. After probing deeper he tells me that ‘others should not be bothered with his issues’. And that stops him from talking about any issue he might have. Because talking about it with the people involved means ‘bothering others’. And the feeling of guilt that emerges from that is just physically unbearable.
Always not doing enough
The conversation continues and he more and more talks about his parents. ‘I havent appreciated my parents enough’, he says. ‘I am not there for them’.
He had told me before that he doesn’t go home to his mum often. His dad he hardly sees. And as this is a common pattern for him he tells me he feels guilty about this whenever he thinks about this. Non of these feeling ever inspired him to go to his parents more often, increasing the feeling of guilt. ‘I always feel I am not doing enough’.
‘So what does ‘being there’ for others mean to you’?, I ask him. Promptly he replies: ‘That I need to choose’. ‘And if there is one thing in life I hate, it’s the idea I have to choose’. As he is speaking his mood changes. ‘This whole conversation makes me down’, he utters as tears swell up. ‘I don’t want to make a choice, the whole idea makes me angry’.
The past creates the future
After a couple of questions he suddenly goes back to that experience in the hospital. ‘I do not want to choose’, he says firmly. ‘I don’t want to choose’! ‘There is no right choice to make, whoever I choose, the other will feel uncomfortable, and then I feel guilty’. ‘Choosing between my parents is something I cannot bare’.
‘My parents ended up in a custody battle and a choice for one is a problem for the other’. As he says that he cries. The concept ‘choosing’ for him has gotten the meaning of a choice between one or the other parent. For a child an impossible choice. But this feeling of choosing got generalized by his brain into any other situation where he felt he had to choose.
Wanting to achieve
‘Understanding all of the above, what is it you want to achieve?’, ask him. His eyes sparkle and he resolutely says, ‘ I do not ever again want to feel that I have to make a choice between one or the other parent’.
As I am teaching him how that works, the feeling of guilt slowly but surely drifts away. ‘I have gotta let go, just let go of these feelings of guilt’, he utters. As he feels inside his body what changes, he tells me that he does not feel down anymore. ‘I do not choose for anyone, I choose’. His emotions changed drastically during that coaching session. In fact when I speak to him 4 weeks later he tells me he talked to his dad and his mother about all of this for the first time. They reacted very caring and told him they were completely unaware of his feelings. He felt completely different towards people in general and just takes initiative now.
3 months later I speak to him and he radiates. He tells me that his relationship with his dad changed 180 degrees. He feels connected now and has a sense of belonging. His relationship with his mum changed also. They talked al lot about her ‘dominance’ and for the first time she acknowledged her behavior in the relationship with his dad. She encourages him now to meet his dad.
Want to know more about how (unconscious) feelings shape the emotional states that we have? Are you curious about how you can change those emotions profoundly? Contact me for more information. Want to read more about how unconscious emotions influence us? Go to Relatie Emotie Therapie en Coaching for the Dutch page about this subject.