Seeking Your Mother’s Approval

You have feelings about your career choice. Your mother has feelings about her son/daughter and about herself as the parent of an underpaid employee.

This “judgement” is a confession, not an accusation. Many mothers are entirely preoccupied with their own distress, their own anger, to listen to your perspective. Your mother is in no position to tell you what you are and are not. That accusation keeps you proving to her over and over that you are not foolish. But no matter how much you try it’s never enough to satisfy her.

You aren’t guilty. But you plead your case to defend yourself against your mother’s false accusations. You take her accusations literally, personally, and serious. When you do, you make the mistake of choosing to plead your case in an imaginary court of law with a judge and jury of one. You defend your innocence to avoid being convicted as guilty and deserving punishment.

It doesn’t work. Your mother hasn’t change her mind and your pleas are disregarded. Thus, you feel like you failed to make your case, which only compounds the guilt and escalates the miscommunication as you retaliate with your own blaming accusations.

Yet, feelings of worthlessness, pessimism and anger color our thought processes without our even knowing it. These feelings are not facts, and they are not even conscious.

Many of us were told as children, that it’s not nice to feel certain things. We were taught to label some feelings as bad or negative states and hesitate to acknowledge them. Happy, grateful, sad, angry, jealous or disappointed all are feelings. Feelings are neither good nor bad, feelings just are.

For example, when you see a painting, you usually know instantly whether you like it or not. But if someone asks you to explain why you like it, you may not be able to. You may not really know why you think something is good, but your logic is skilled at making up reasons. You search for a plausible reason for liking the painting and you latch on to the first reason that makes sense (maybe something vague about color, or light, or the reflection of the paint). Yet, these justifications are rationalizations or just superficial excuses to justify your personal taste. Many arguments are the same. Two people feel strongly about an issue, their feelings come to the surface and their reasons why, are invented on the fly.

The real issue amounts to something that sounds like it came from a child: “I am right and you are wrong,” “I am smart and you are stupid,” “I want my way.”

This is why it is mistaken to believe that we are rational human beings.  We are using our “rationality” to over-compensate for our feelings of when inadequacy in other areas of our lives.  We deceive ourselves from our true motives by disguising our efforts to explain, as “helping” the other person.

Instead of giving well-intentioned advice, it is more productive to find out what please us.

1. What Pleases Me?
 The first difficulty in carrying this out, is that people do not know what pleases themselves. They have been so busy living up to others standards of good or bad, they have not had the confidence to develop standards of their own. I tell my clients to choose to do something that they would have passed up for concern of what others might think. We can decide that we have as much right to do it as anyone else. We can catch ourselves about to discount it as “scary,” “pointless” or “frivolous.” These are obstacles from our past, which prevents us from changing for the better. We can also catch ourselves about to reject this opportunity, because it might not turn out perfectly. Instead, we can agree it doesn’t have to.

2. I Have To Choose
. Now we come to a second difficulty. Performing this task requires a choice. If we don’t make choices for our own happiness, who will? Many people are not used to making choices because they do not trust their own judgment (it is not good enough). Many people feel obligated to depend on the “superior” judgment of others. The necessity of making choices on our own behalf is an act of control. This is not merely reacting anymore, this is initiating an action. That can be scary for some. What if we make a mistake? That’s where courage comes in. Courage is the willingness to take a risk by doing what is hard and doing it anyways. This includes the risk of making a mistake. By making a choice anyways and using their courage it is a success. Success comes from doing what is hard. Making a choice for ourselves for the first time is hard and that is why it is a success regardless of the outcomes.

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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