LOVE WHAT YOU CAN LOVE, AND LET THE REST GO
HARVEST THE BEST, OFFLOAD THE REST
Part 1. Your new state of mind (your viewpoint).
Love What You Can Love and Let the Rest Go.
Part 2. Your new habits – (your conduct)
What is one of the most challenging dilemmas of life? It is trying to reconcile the gap between how much you love a family member and how much that same family member drives you crazy. Most of the time the targeted individuals are YOUR PARENTS; your MOTHER and/or your FATHER. Sometimes this dilemma appears to be irreconcilable!
One of the contributors to this dilemma is that your parents are your parents… you simply got your parents out of luck or lack of it. Rather than shopping for your parents, you got what you got, for better or for worse. Sometimes, it seems more like for worse.
Here are some indicators that can seem to add gasoline to the fire:
MEN – Imagine you gather a random group of 100 men who are about your same age, and you say to each man, one at a time, “You know, you are just like your father.” Some of the men will bristle, get defensive, and quickly proclaim, “I AM NOT!” Curiously, you may notice that more of the men will say either, “So What?” or “Thanks!”
WOMEN – Imagine you gather a random group of 100 women who are about your same age and you say to each woman, one at a time, “You are just like your mother.” You may notice that a larger percentage of women will get VERY upset with your accusation and engage in lift-off with great push-back and defensiveness. “I AM NOT, AND HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT TO ME!”
I have lost count of all the people with whom I have associated where the above observations have been quite reliable and chronic. Regardless of how much you agree or disagree with my experience, what is certainly true for many of us is the following refrain, “I love my mother, but she drives me out of my mind,” and/or “I love my father, but he is impossible and I can’t stand his behavior!”
Here are some familiar complaints I hear about parents:
• All she does is complain, wallow around in self-pity, and play the victim.
• He is constantly disapproving and critical.
• She never owns her behavior; it is always someone else’s fault. She is so irresponsible.
• I’m never good enough in his mind. He always says something that hurts my feelings and makes me feel inadequate.
• She always wants to argue and win the argument. She always has to have the last word.
• He has to be the smartest person in the room. He thinks that he is always right.
• She is so self-consumed; she never seems to care about me or my life. It is always about her.
• He always promises the moon, fails to deliver then he lies about it.
Do any of the remarks sound familiar? Do your parents behave this way? Further, do some of these habits remind you of you? (Oh my, could this be true? Could you be angry at your parents because they remind you of your own conduct?)
Here is the dilemma you may be in:
1. You love your parents because they are YOUR parents! (You may want to protest against that statement.) The reality is likely that to you, your parents are larger than life. They brought you into the world and most likely brought you up. You initially thought they were perfect, or at least they were supposed to be perfect. On the other hand, you might want to remember they likely did the best they could with whatever limitations they had at the time. (If you have children of your own you will likely have a better understanding of that conclusion.) So, your emotional connection with your parents remains huge and you probably still love them, sometimes beyond justified reason.
2. Your parents sometimes behave in ways that drive you crazy! Most of us learn a few lessons in life and as adults we often hang on to ridiculous beliefs and perpetuate insane habits. Infrequently do we consider the impact of our behavior on others, especially on our children. Instead, we muddle and stumble along with the on-the-job project called parenting. We end up passing on our family pathology to our children as we often paradoxically keep behaving like our parents.
3. Somehow it seems impossible to reconcile the OBVIOUS. You love your parents, and at the same time you find them irritating and unreasonable?
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT THIS?
Replace your perspective on how you view your parents. Consider this new viewpoint… LOVE WHAT YOU CAN LOVE AND LET THE REST GO!
You can still love your parents regardless of how much you continue to have trouble with how they conduct themselves.
Consider the following:
- Are there any qualities that you love about your parents? Of course, there are.
- What qualities about your parents do you admire and appreciate?
- Are there some qualities, principles, or habits that you would like to emulate and pass on to your own children?
- Once you really look, without obsessing about what irritates you, do you notice that there are some qualities, standards, habits, and character foundations that you really love about your parents? How much can you focus on those qualities and love those?
- (I once had a client who was routinely frustrated with her mother’s chronic self-pity and victim behavior. I asked my client if she admired or appreciated any quality in her mother. After a moment she replied, “Yes, I think my mother is an excellent grandmother to my children.” So I asked if she could love that quality more in her mother and have her play the grandmother role more often. She agreed.)
- What you focus on expands! Continue to look for those qualities that you can love and those qualities often get bigger on your radar. Concentrate more on what you can love and let the rest go. Point out more to your parents what you love about them.
- Remember, you might be bothered and hurt by what appears to be continual disapproval and criticism of you from your parents. If you remain bothered by your parents, then perhaps your parents also feel bothered and hurt by what appears to be ongoing disapproval and impatience from you.
Who is likely to make the first move? Will your parents change their behavior before you do? Unlikely! If you replace your disapproval with approval and acceptance might they become less defensive and difficult?
Decide to change your behavior first! Adopt a new viewpoint. Love what you can love and let the rest go. Replace your disapproval with love and acceptance!
This perspective requires strong resolution on your part and a decision to replace your irritation and disapproval with support, acceptance, and love. This takes practice and adoption of a belief that the more you focus on what you can love, the rest becomes easier to let go. When your parents get more love and acceptance from you, they feel less defensive and are more accepting of you. Your parents simply want support and respect, just as you do. Love what you can love and let the rest go. You get more than you give when you give more than you get!
PART 2. Your NEW HABITS – Change your conduct toward your parents.
HARVEST THE BEST, OFFLOAD THE REST
If you would like to take this initiative to the next level, then it is time to add some new habits to the mix. Harvest the best, offload the rest.
This idea is about advancing beyond your new viewpoint (Part 1).
Add new initiatives, behaviors, and skill sets to gain more strength and influence to adjust and transform your relationship with your parents.
Consider the following:
- Are there some habits, standards, or routines that you particularly admire in your parents?
- As you consider those routines, how many are habits that you admire so much that you would like to improve them in yourself? As you think about it, there may be several qualities in each parent that you admire and consider outstanding and perhaps “the best.”
- Imagine that you develop some habits to emulate and reproduce the “best” of your parents rather than belly-aching about the worst. As you begin this process, what happens to your state of mind, your self-respect, and the prognosis of making your life better?
- (As I think about my own parents, regardless of how difficult they were, each of them had some very impressive qualities that I admired. My father was fearless, funny, charismatic, a successful entrepreneur, and routinely took initiative to make the first move. My mother was very disciplined, principled, promoted strong character and operated from high standards. Years ago it occurred to me that I could and would now concentrate on copying and harvesting the “best” of each of my parents. As I began the process of harvesting the best, I noticed that I actually felt better. I became much more likely to embrace my parents than to discount them and feel ripped off. Now I can say with great candor, that I have clearly harvested the “best” of both parents and let go of the rest. This achievement continues to feel great and I still polish the skills and sharpen the saw. I am so pleased that rather than feeling ripped off and sad, I have successfully replaced my dismay over both parents with appreciation, improvement in my own conduct, and more self-respect).
Life is too short to waste it with whining, complaining, and feeling victimized. Your parents did the best they could at the time. You can be assured that they thrashed themselves a lot over their own suboptimal parenting skills with you. Rarely does anyone acquire superior parenting skills prior to having children.
You have spent too much time kicking and screaming about what your parents did wrong rather than capitalizing on what they did right.
You are likely to be rather relieved with how life can be so much better than when you are thrashing around about how life dealt you a bad hand. When you replace your viewpoint and habits with these new perspectives and initiatives… life can begin to be terrific!
I am confident that your parents want the best for you and would much prefer that you take this new direction with your life.
Remember to practice:
1. Love What You Can Love and Let the Rest Go. Focus on what you love about your parents. The more you concentrate on what you love the bigger it gets!
2. Harvest the Best, Offload the Rest. Concentrate on emulating and copying the best of your parents. They certainly have some qualities and routines that you like. Make a point of harvesting the best of them and you will become more of the person that you want to be. You are likely to find your smile and begin to enjoy your time with them. You will laugh more at their dumb habits and learn more about their good ones.
Finally, you will get out of emotional prison!
Life is about learning lessons and lessons will be repeated until they are learned.