Conditional vs Unconditional Love

What’s the difference between a partner looking at you with conditional versus unconditional love? It’s all the difference in the world. It’s the difference between someone who wants to guide you to look like something that will adorn them, versus someone who thinks you are gorgeous the way you already are. You don’t want someone who thinks you look great because you’re all decked out for some important event. You want someone who thinks 638 Relax and Succeed - You can't really rely on how you lookyou’re the most gorgeous thing on the planet because you’re the mother of their beloved children—that whole new people that were created by your intense attraction to one another. It’s a totally different thing and you can look like anything and be from anywhere and have unconditional love happen to you.

Below are two examples. The first is common and was easy for me to create. The second is concocted from an amalgamation of things that either happened to couples I know or they’re things that couples have told me about in their process with me. But everything in each example is actually something that I’ve either witnessed or it’s something that someone told me they’ve experienced or done. So if you’re in the first group and want to be in the second, know that there are people walking all around you who have achieved that status, and if you stop looking at all of the people that conform to advertising standards you’ll end up seeing a lot of the people who have found true, unconditional love.

Conditional Love

He looked carefully at each of the ladies there and yes, there were some extremely impressive figures moving about the room but in comparing them he felt his fiance was indeed the most beautiful there that night. She was waiting on the other side of the theatre lobby for him 638 Relax and Succeed - Never chase lovewhen their eyes met. When he looked at her his eyes snaked up her body, starting at her shiny super-high spiked heels, on past the long straight and narrow legs that her diet and daily jogging had helped to maintain.

He motioned for her to twirl in the dress he’d chosen for her and she did, and that twirl showed off that ass she worked so hard on every day. Her stomach was perfectly anorexia-flat and yet gave way to large, perfectly placed, absolutely identical breasts that cooperated perfectly to create substantial cleavage that she further used makeup to enhance. She wore the very large and prominent diamond he gave her on her left hand, the matching earrings dangled from her delicate ears like neon signs pointing at his wealth. She was relived about the earrings. He had always told her the story about how he had broken up with his first girlfriend because of the weird shape of her ears. He used to tease her all time time about them but she never wore hairstyles that covered them, which embarrassed him. His fiance was another story. Her ears were perfect little Disney Princess ears, drawn as a perfect set by the universe. Her voice was 638 Relax and Succeed - Real love beginsbeautiful, her jawline sharp and very sexy.

Her father was a wealthy dentist and every single tooth was a perfectly shaped electric-white chiclet. She smiled, knowing he approved of her extremely provocative dress. He liked to show her off and that made him feel good. Her high cheekbones and perfectly shaped, symmetrical eyes looked back at him, pleased that he liked how she looked. She’d just changed her hair to style he’d asked her to switch to and it made her happy that it turned out the way he wanted. For his part, he took her all in and felt as though every other man in the room must be incredibly jealous of him for having such a Playboy-bunny girlfriend. He walked up to her, pushed a bit of hair off her face, smiled and he lead her back into the darkness of the theatre.

Unconditional Love

They were on opposite sides of the theatre lobby. She was waiting in a line to get them wine and he was in another to get her something to eat. The moment their eyes met the whole 638 Relax and Succeed - One big universeroom disappeared for him. That always happened as he fell into her beauty. Her smile lit up a room, and she had such a warm and gentle spirit that she made everyone around her comfortable. Whenever he looked at her he could see the faces of their beloved children, each who had emerged not out of a plan, but directly out of love. She was the only woman he had ever slept with where he felt his love was so intense, so massive, that his orgasms would need to create an entirely new human being just to contain the amount of love he felt.

Despite her colourful and artful attire, on her finger was a plain old rubber O-ring—a match for the engagement ring she had given him one day when she spontaneously proposed to him in the aisle of a hardware store. Every time he looked at her smile his heart leaped. His eyes welled with tears as he tried to contain how much he loved her. How her skin seemed to glow from within, and how it was oddly magnetic. He couldn’t stop himself from touching it. When they made love he wiggled and worked to position himself as though his goal was to get as many molecules as possible of him to touch as many molecules as possible of her. He wanted to be near her cells. He wanted to embrace her so deeply that the border between them would melt and waver in that beautiful way that always 638 Relax and Succeed - The greatest complimenttook her breath away. He loved how in bed he could snuggle behind her and reach around and his hand would fit perfectly around the wrinkly roll of post-pregnancy skin on her belly. He loved how it allowed for even more molecules of him to touch even more molecules of her.

He loved how she smelled, how she tasted and it was as though Mozart has written a lullaby based on her breathing. She enchanted him. She had taught him so much and she had always brought out the best in him. Just her smile alone would have him basking in how fortunate he felt to be with her. And whenever he was, it was as though there was no one else in the room. And every woman in the room who saw him looking at her thought to herself, “if only a man looked at me like that…” And as everyone headed back into the theatre for the start of the second act, instead he turned to her and said, “The play’s fantastic I know. But would you mind if we skipped the second act? I’d really rather just be with you.” And together they walked out of the theatre and off into the darkness, together, with the hopes and wishes of every other woman there trailing off behind them.

*

638 Relax and Succeed - Find someone who knows that you're not perfectWhat kind of relationship does your partner want? What kind of relationship do you foster with your words and behaviour? You can pose for the world with an ego-based relationship, or you can dive deeply into the world of unconditional love. It’s really only a matter of which search you enact with the way you live your life.

For your sake I hope you get to feel the intense approval and acceptance that goes with unconditional love. It is a wonderful environment in which to thrive. At the very least I hope you will join me in creating for yourself a life in which your qualities are being acknowledged regularly, even if that’s the unconditional self-love that we should all be giving ourselves. Be kind to you and you will model the behaviour for others. If we all lower our ego-expectations it becomes much easier to see that there is a large number of people with whom we can meaningfully connect. Here’s to you creating more of those sorts of connections in your life.

With love, s

Parenting vs Exampling

It is extremely common for parents to come to me with what they feel are problem children. They talk about behavioral issues, worrisome friends, disrespect, aloofness, bad grades, or casual sex etc. Certainly there’s almost always at least a few kids in my roster who genuinely need some serious help from me, but I’m happy to report that most don’t need much. In fact, in most cases the kid barely needs me at all. Because the issue actually isn’t with the kid. And it’s not with the parents either. But it is with the parenting.

549 Relax and Succeed - The kids who need the most loveAgain: this isn’t to say the parents are bad. Their dedication isn’t an issue, and all of them are intelligent, successful people in whatever life path they pursued. They bring their kids to me because they love them and want them to do well. They’ve invested time and money and effort and endured all kinds of things before they meet me. And always, the kid in front of me is—despite their issues—impressive in all sorts of ways. So the parents have overwhelmingly succeeded, despite a few lingering concerns. In the end, the problem is really very simple: it’s just that most people don’t parent as consciously as they believe they do, so once I help them become more conscious they certainly don’t need any advice from me.

Parents will believe they’re putting a lot into their parenting by giving a lot of thought to their kid’s development and their “issues.” And they are putting a lot in, in a way. But it’s largely wasted energy because their parenting is choosing and inflating those issues unconsciously as a reflective or reciprocal resp0nse to the parenting they got. So if you feel like your life would have gone better if you paid more attention in school and your parents never pushed you in school, then you will be more urgent about trying to get your children to do well in class. But it’s also logical that if you did well in school and that brought rewards, then you will also urge your child to do really well so they can have those rewards too. Yet at the same time, it makes sense that a kid who is 549 Relax and Succeed - Make the ordinary come alivepushed too hard could crater and drop out from the pressure, even though they’re smart. The point is, you’ll act a lot like your parents, or a lot like the opposite of your parents, and you’ll do this in super subtle ways that you will find largely invisible, except for a few key issues (“Oh my God, I sound like my Mother!!”)

So most parenting is based in fear, and on the act of trying to prevent bad things from happening, and the parents choose the bad things they’re most afraid of based on their own lives and the parenting they got. If your mother’s sister died from drowning then you can bet that you’ll be taught to be extra wary when you’re near water. Or if your dad was never home because he was always working, you will have unconsciously learned to leave work exactly on time for the rest of your life, because you want to get home to your kids. Those are the kinds of motivations that create unconscious parenting.

Can you see how that’s like a crazy chain of misinformation and misunderstanding? You don’t need to manage a kid’s life like you’re their agent. There’s little need to focus on individual areas of a child if they feel fully actualized by parents who are parenting under the automatic assumption that their kid will be a successful human being. Not in an egotistical, materialistic 549 Relax and Succeed - The best security blanketway, but rather they will be confident enough to do as well as they should at whatever they try. So some things they’ll be built for, other things not so much, but they’ll feel secure doing either. We’re all crappy at some things, so if a parent’s focused on their child’s weak points, the child will soon have no self esteem and that is the worst blow of all.

If you really want to have an effect, the most effective form of parenting is exampling. If you and your spouse yell at each other, then you have no business telling your kid not to yell. That’s ridiculous. So they have to live to a higher standard than you? No wonder they’re sassy; you’re a hypocrite. And if you’re constantly focused on their bad classes and wanting them to do great in every subject, then again—they’re doomed. No one is good at everything. 80% of the world believes they are bad a math. For God’s sake, let them be a human. They’re allowed not to be good at things and so are you. Everyone gets that by birth.

School and sports have become like the stock market. They drive people insane. The book publishing industry was historically a 4-6% profit business. But then big international media companies bought all the publishers and because they were publicly traded, they wanted the same 15% a year that all their other businesses are whipped into providing—as though 6% is a failure. But of course, the desire of the market to make 15% does not change the state of the world any more than the existence of schools and classes means that kids should be good at 549 Relax and Succeed - The educational systemevery subject that gets invented. It doesn’t matter if you want 15% or A’s, sometimes 6% and C’s are all that’s available. And it seems cruel to whip a zebra because it’s not a horse.

Most people are much, much smarter than they give themselves credit for. But they limit themselves with narratives that they’re stupid or incapable. And those scripts come from responding to the demands of parents. You don’t want to push a kid into a subject, you want them to be inspired toward it. And for the few things they’ll suck at, you can use those as life lessons about how everyone has things they struggle at and that’s okay.

So the best thing you can do is, if you want your kids to focus, focus yourself. If you want them to speak respectfully, then speak respectfully yourself. If you want them to be kind to others, then be kind to others 549 Relax and Succeed - Behind every great kidyourself. If you want them to get their stuff done, get your stuff done. And if you want them to care about something, don’t demand it. Care about it yourself. Because you don’t build a kid. You nurture one, and they’ll grow toward the light.

Forget talk-parenting. Forget lessons. Take some responsibility for their behaviour. Example what you want to see. Show it to them and they’ll amaze you.

I normally would have stopped at the previous paragraph but I want to take a moment to stress that the example above is common. A lot of my current and past clients read the blog regularly and it’s remarkable to me how often they all constantly believe a blog is about them specifically. It shows how much we’re all the same. These are always amalgamations and re-creations of many experiences. So if you’re insecure about you’re parenting, this truly isn’t about any individual, it’s about you the human being. And I do hope it helps de-stress you so that you and your child can more fully enjoy each other’s company. Because I’m confident you’re doing a better job than you think you are.

with love, s

Principled Parenting

There’s a curious irony to my practice in that, if a couple is sitting in front of me concerned about their child, I will almost invariably meet a solid young person who might be struggling with understanding the world, but they’re working from a strong and sturdy foundation provided by good parents. They can reason and they have a good understanding of value. These are children whose parents have always reacted proactively to concerns.

441 Relax and Succeed - Create a lifeBeing responsible in that way, those sorts of parents have generally raised their children using principles rather than rules. Because assumptions and opinion and learning are not the same as discovery, reason and understanding, the parents raising wise kids aren’t worried about what other people will think of them for bringing to them to someone like me—they have the kid’s interests first. So if there’s a way to achieve better reasoning and understanding, they promote that.

Now it’s important to point out that these aren’t groups of good parents and bad parents. These are equal people who approach parenting from two different perspectives and one perspective quite logically and naturally leads to calm, self-reliant, patient, tolerant and strong people, and the other approach is far more likely to lead to drama, neediness, impatience, intolerance and weakness. The current addiction to ego that the Western world is suffering under is amplifying the number of people in the latter group. No one wants to discipline their kid because they don’t want to admit their kid isn’t already perfect. Because life today is no longer about being real and growing. It’s about pretending to already be perfect. If you’ve ever untagged yourself from an unflattering facebook photo then you know what I mean.

I was shovelling snow once with my Dad and I was thinking about a guy at school who had gotten his girlfriend pregnant. It made me realize that the physical world was ready for me to be a dad, but my mind hadn’t even imagined that possibility until my buddy’s situation. So I 441 Relax and Succeed - Life itself is your teacherasked my Dad how a parent is supposed to know what to do to raise their kid? And my Dad’s answer was, “You just teach them what they need to know to live without you.” It was simple and elegant and humble and just like my Dad. From there, the only question is how far you take the qualifier: “need to know.” Because some parents think their kids need to know sports stats, or how fix computers, or that they have to have a college degree. But others are focused on principles.

What’s a principle versus what’s a belief that you’re essentially taught to believe? Here’s some examples that might pertain to kids of different ages:

  • A kid can be taught the belief that some genre of music is stupid or bad or brilliant or good, versus teaching them the components of music, exposing them to a lot of different forms, and then let them find out what appeals to them as individuals.

  • That a kid should vote in this or that way because it’s smarter, when that doesn’t even make sense in a democracy. The idea isn’t that one group is right and the other group is wrong. It’s that everyone has strengths and useful perspectives and we’ll make wiser decisions if we take them all into account, and so the principled kids should vote for whoever is taking the most people into account, not for some specific person or party.

  • 441 Relax and Succeed - Who we are can not be separatedSome kids are taught they have a right to scream, irritate, damage or even destroy the value in someone else’s time or space, wheres other kids understand that society is made up of how everyone treats everyone else, and that if we want a healthy society then we all have to do our part by modelling cooperative behaviour even when it might not be convenient for us personally. It’s like the rules of the road. They’re not there to be tyrannical. They’re not there because we’re stupid. They’re a set of principles that allow us all to function well together as a group.

  • That you should never have to wait for anything versus the idea that that world will absolutely leave you waiting all over the place. If you don’t develop the brain wiring for waiting, then you grow into one of those insane 50 year olds who beats the crap out of the inside of their car during traffic jams. Waiting is part of life and it’s a skill parents need to both exhibit and demand to ensure that the child learns the necessary skills to exist in the world as it is.

You have two routes: you can teach your children to make the same decisions you make, or you can teach your children how the world works and then they can make up their own mind about how to function successfully within it. It’s like memorizing math tables versus actually understanding what the concept of multiplication means. In one the child is simply repeating what they were told and in the other they actually understand. One group cannot adapt or change or accommodate other views, whereas the latter group is open, humble and flexible.

In the taught group there are right and wrong answers and a kid can be disciplined for getting the wrong answer. In the discovery group a kid can only misunderstand and so nothing more than further explanation/discovery is required. It’s not that the kid was wrong, it was only that their 441 Relax and Succeed - The greatest enemy of knowledgeunderstanding had been limited by experience. To increase experience is to increase understanding. So we don’t raise successful kids by telling them how the world works and by telling them what decisions to make. We raise successful kids by showing them how the world works and then let them make their own choices based on  wisdom and common sense.

Your kids are amazing. They are capable. They are naturally cooperative and generous and compassionate. Don’t teach them to hate others, don’t teach them to expect or demand or want. This life isn’t about achievement, it’s about experience. Teach them to be fully alive in this world and you will have introduced them to a way of being that will lead to the best kind of life possible.

I recently read a couple of blogs that discussed other important aspects of parenting and so I’m including links to them below. But just remember, healthy kids aren’t built they’re raised. They’re not taught they’re exposed to knowledge. They don’t know the rules, they understand how things work. So don’t teach kids what you know. Instead discover the world together with them. It’ll be good for both of you.

Have a great day with your kids.

peace. s

Wall Street Journal: Why French Parents Are Superior

5 Reasons Modern Day Parenting Is In Crisis

Other Perspectives #24

432 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Mother someone who will love you

Now some nice mother or father or child created this graphic as a way of celebrating motherhood and mothers. And that’s an awesome idea, but the downside is that there are in reality tons and tons and tons of terrible, awful, even dangerous mothers. Maybe they’re ill, poorly informed or very mean spirited, but regardless of the motivation, there are definitely large numbers of children who are suffering at the hands of their mothers and their fathers. So yeah, if you have great parents be super grateful. Because a huge number of people don’t, but those people end up feeling lonely and separate because quotes like this one lead them to believe that most people have parents from a TV sitcom. 25% of people have addictions. 50% of marriages fail and there’s a lot of fighting before they do. Mom’s are busy also being daughters and wives and employees. The new millennium is a busy place and it’s machinery chews some people up. If you happen to have a mother who didn’t mother, don’t let that hold you back at all because that is a huge percentage of the population. Large enough that you don’t even have to begin thinking of it as a problem for you. If anything it can build strengths others do not have. So again, it’s awesome if you’re like me and are fortunate enough to have great parents. But there’s lots of parents who got that way by accident and they never did take it very seriously, and that’s just the reality of it. So if you’re one of the people whose mom was neglectful, don’t let it hold you back. You’re in fantastic company. You belong to the entire Human Race.

peace. s

Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offense to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.

Un-Mother’s Day

I grew up mostly with my Mom and she was my hero. I owe her pretty much for everything I’m good at. But she was always criticizing my Dad and the guys she dated and now I’m doing it too. I’m too judgmental of men. I can’t have a relationship because I’m always disappointed and I’m always watching for problems or “signs” and I hear myself saying exact negative things I remember my mom saying. These last two times were with guys I really liked. If I’m not going to accept someone like that then I’ll be alone all of my life. So now Mother’s Day is coming up and I don’t know what to do. I’m grateful for all she did for me and at the same time I hate her for ruining my future. I’m sorry I don’t even know what I’m asking you.

signed,
Single and Alone

Dear Single,

I hope you’ll excuse the fact that I waited until after Mother’s Day to post this part of your email as your question. It does have some downer aspects to it so I didn’t want to present it on the actual Mother’s Day and possibly smudge some reader’s experience that day. The good news is that there’s some real positives we can draw out of the experiences you’ve been having. Please don’t see your relationships as failures. They are at worst like experiments and at best they are deeply meaningful even though they’ve ended. How long they last isn’t necessarily an indication of how worthwhile they are.

393 Relax and Succeed - Never regret anything that has happenedSo let’s look at how you’re seeing Mom, and then we’ll look at how you’re seeing yourself. Despite your frustrations you can still see clearly enough to recognize that your mother gave you most of her/your strengths. That clarity is helpful in our process—thank you. But how did you get those qualities? The same way we learn almost everything a human does—you copied it. You mimicked someone, in these cases: your Mom. So your qualities will always have been copied from someone profoundly meaningful in your environment. But as you’re copying those you’re also copying their less appealing traits. Successful people will often also be aggressive. Beautiful can also be associated with vanity. And so you would have picked up your Mother’s strengths and her less productive identities too. So now let’s look at the context of the person you were destined by circumstances to mimic:

Your story makes perfect sense. Your mother was a single mother of at least one child. I continue to say that in the Western World this is one of the most challenging roles in our society. There’s no CEO on Earth that would hold a candle to what a single mother has to do, not to mention one who may have a special needs child. So plain and simple, to even leave your Dad—let alone raise you—your mother simply had to be incredibly strong, resourceful and capable. And she would have been much younger than she is now. She would be doing everything without much life experience. And if she was early 20’s or younger, the part of her brain that would be most valuable in making good decisions wouldn’t even be built yet. So I’m not saying there wasn’t an underbelly to what happened, but overall you’re fortunate that you got to see an excellent example set for you. Because we don’t control that. And yet it is the single most important factor in your life.

393 Relax and Succeed - Positive mind postive vibesI’ve written about it before—I have predicted for some time that there will be an epidemiologically detectable impact on male-female partnerships and these will primarily hinge around the exact sort of comments you’re talking about. It doesn’t matter whether your mother bashed men in general or whether she unconsciously but heavily wired men into some extremely negative frameworks, what’s important is that she unwittingly forgot you were listening and building your concept of the world. So just like you learned English because that’s what your Mom spoke, you’ve learned man judging because that’s also a language that was spoken in your house.

So you have to see your Mom’s innocence. She’s a young woman, likely not being treated well enough if not very p0orly, and she’s taken the huge and terrifying step of actually leaving or she’s been left without warning and is completely adrift. Either way, she’s in the midst of one of the most vulnerable times of her entire life and she has you to worry about too. For life experiences this kind of thing is very likely top five, all time, and routinely #1. So don’t expect ideal behaviour from someone at the literal nadir of their life. You don’t want to be held to those standards either. I’m sure your Mom would love for you to have had a better childhood. But it’s not like the one you got prevents you from having a full and deeply enriching life experience. You just have to know how. Which is where we get away from your Mom and on to You.

You’re the one thinking these wanting judgmental thoughts about your Mom’s past, present and potential future. That’s not her fault. Yes, she inadvertently wired men into a pretty negative part of the brain but she didn’t mean to. And she can’t rewrite your brain. You are going to have to notice and actively meditate on the qualities of men. You have to literally re-wire your brain to see men in a different light. This isn’t hard or crazy nor does it take long. You’d be amazed at how many cells you build in a day. Your body will put them wherever you need them. If you’re building new pathways in your brain, trust me that your body will cooperate.

393 Relax and Succeed - Healing doesn't meanthe damage never existedSo how do you do this? It’s this easy: watch men and watch for nice things they do. Hold doors, let someone into traffic, give directions etc. Watch them be caring, dedicated fathers, and look at the helpful people who work at the places you visit each day—many are men. Like Firemen or Sewer Crews, many of the invisible people you count on are men. So if you catch yourself in a negative rant just shift it by recalling one of the past qualities you had witnessed and admired. Replace the angry divisive thought with the compassionate loving one. Do that every chance you get, and know that you’ll always get tons of chances.

It’s important to remember that when a guy acts like any human being will, and he doesn’t do what you wanted him to, you can’t disregard all the positive things you’ve recognized. If you do that you’ll permanently switch back to those old judgmental pathways. That’ll be like what you’re doing now, only more drawn-out.

When you go through this journey you have to know—you have to remind yourself—that you are experiencing a predictable aspect of changing. You’ll bunny hop (like the dance, not a rabbit) to success. Just because you occasionally fire some energy down old pathways-of-habit (and react predictably), that does not mean that you haven’t successfully built healthier architectures for your thinking. So if you occasionally think uncharitable thoughts about men and you phrase it just like your Mom did, then fine. But don’t turn that into the idea that men are bad. As soon as you catch yourself focusing on uncharitable judgments, switch back to watching for things about men to appreciate. Do it with women too while you’re at it.

Look for the best in people and you’ll both see it and motivate more of it. You just can’t expect that 100% of the time. Move gracefully through the times where life is steeper or when you’re more judgmental and you’ll get better and better at staying in a state of appreciation. And if you’re good at appreciating then a relationship with almost any guy can work no matter what your history was.

You’ve been wise. You know you’re not a man-hater but you know you’ve been thinking like one. There’s no need to panic. Just quiet those thoughts as much as possible and shift to appreciation as often as possible and the rest takes care of itself.

peace. s

Proclamations of Love

After school I go to my friend’s house and her Mom is always complimenting her or telling her she loves her and my Mom never says stuff like that. What’s so hard about good job or I love you?

signed,
Looking for Love

Dear Looking,

Hmm. I see your point. So then, you surely can appreciate that much more of your Mom’s life revolves around your needs than her own. That being the case I guess you’ve regularly told your Mom good job, and I love you? Maybe you have. But if she didn’t teach you to then maybe you don’t. Maybe she didn’t learn to either. And is there some special rule somewhere that says she has to go first?

388 Relax and Succeed - We tend to forgetI can completely understand why your ego-self would want to get verbal confirmation that your Mother loves you. Language quickly infects us with chronic insecurity. You want to hear the love symbolized in words. Weird eh? I mean, you get that the love isn’t the naming of the love… right? If and when your Mom said “I love you,” it’s not like all of the love would be downloaded to you right then, like when Neo learned Kung Fu in The Matrix.

It’s not like the words themselves actually carry some kind of magic potion called love. The love’s been given prior to the declaration—in all kinds of ways. Effort, sacrifice, patience, tolerance, expense… repeat as necessary. Even as awesome as every baby is, in your first year you were no where near worth in joy the amount you cost in money, labour, personal sacrifice and sleeplessness. All you could really do is wiggle for a lot of it. And an alert parent can take a lot from that, but still—they cleaned up your poo. You puked on them. And you were unable to show them gratitude. Enough said.

When a teenage girl yells I hate you, at their already-insecure-like-every-other-human-being mother, what she does not calculate is; what is it that heals the wound that has been caused by this deliberate slicing into the very core of a parent? The answer is love.

When a parent needs to be up early for an important day of work, but instead they are awake in bed waiting for you to either call or get home because you were supposed to be home hours ago—the agony they go through is bandaged by love, which is used to explain why Mom’s continue to endure your overall disrespect. And love is why they mostly sit idly by while you belittle their lives in various ways, like how she dressed when she was young, or what music she liked, how old she is…. You’ll have to get to their age to understand but you’ll see. We’re all pretty rude pretty often when we’re growing up.

388 Relax and Succeed - Because someone doesn't love youMy point is that your Mother has loved you in her own way and you did not always make that easy. She may not have done what storybooks told you she would. She may not have done what your friend’s moms did. She may in fact have even been cold and unfeeling. And while that might suck, she didn’t sell you for crack.

Remember, you  can’t ask an elephant for the ink from an octopus. Nor can you ask a blackbird to swim like a fish. People can only be what they are. So rather than having some ideal that you compare your mother to, focus instead on trying to see what she actually does do as herself.

It kind of works this way: Maybe you want to hear the words I love you after you blow a test. But maybe your Mom’s family was really poor and they often couldn’t even afford food. And because of that poverty, your grandmother only baked cookies when one of her kids was feeling particularly low. So your Mom got to associate baking with the ultimate act of love. And so rather than saying I love you, (something she’s never heard said very often and so she doesn’t consider saying it herself), instead your mother very naturally bakes when she feels love.

Even your mother would be unlikely to immediately and consciously associate the baking with love. But love will either be present in some way, or the efforts to suppress it will be present. Because it’s not like every parent gives us tons of reasons to appreciate them. So it might not be baking or it might not even be anything positive at all.

Maybe they learned to hide from challenges like extending love. But it’s still innocent behaviour either way. You can’t blame someone for not being something. They are what they are. You can encourage them, but you can’t make anyone into anything. They must consciously or unconsciously choose to become whoever they end up being.

I can understand your motivation. I have taught my Mom to say I love you and I think she likes it as much as I do, although she still prefers to say it from another room, with no eye contact. There’s a less wise version of me that would be upset with her for that—as though she was only half-loving me. But now it’s cute. It shows how scary it is for her.

It’s like my Dad—he’s my hero—I admire so much about him. But he never heard I love you’s from his Dad (who I understand was quite awful), so he never learned to say that to his kids. But he showed his love in all kinds of great ways—especially his very sincere interest in whatever was interesting his kids. So when I say I love you Dad, he usually either says, good or okay, and I’ve now been able to see those responses as nice areas of his brain to be firing in response to my proclamation. Because if I’m paying any attention at all, his and Mom’s love is present all over the place so I don’t really need any specific sounds to come out of their mouths.

388 Relax and Succeed - Stop lookingn for reasons you are not happyIf you’re always looking for how you’re not loved you’ll fail to see how you are loved. You might think you’re the exception, but essentially everyone who works with me starts with the belief they aren’t loved enough and then they come to realize that…no…no, maybe they are being loved. Just not in the ways they’d expected. It’s a bit like the Five Languages of Love, but personalized for each individual parent. Again, they cannot give you what they do not have.

To find more happiness in your life your job isn’t to define an apology for your parents to give you, your job is only to be grateful. So if you believe you have an actual bad parent (and they do exist), then prove how spiritually developed you are by being grateful for them anyway. Certainly don’t leave yourself in the position of needing anything from them.

If you need l love you’s or I’m sorry’s from a parent then you know you’re lost in ego. They might be nice if they happened, but you don’t need those things. They don’t relate to how happy your life is. What you focus on in any given moment is what dictates how good your life is. So pay less attention to the words people use and more attention to absorbing how fortunate you were to have even been born so that you could experience this fantastic burst of creativity called life. Enjoy.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Complaint Compliant

My mother is always complaining that I don’t spend more time with her but when I do all she does is complain anyway. It’s not that I don’t love her because I really do. And I get that she’s had some hard stuff to deal with in life. But I think sometimes she forgets that the violent husband she had was also me and my sister’s violent dad. I know my mom won’t live forever so I do want to spend time with her but what’s the point if she’s just always going on about a marriage from 10 years ago? Is there anything me and my sister could do that would help her not waste the last part of her life?

signed,
Worried Daughter

Dear Daughter,

One of the most challenging aspects to being healthy is watching our loved ones choose to be miserable. Of course they don’t see it as a choice. When you don’t want to listen to her complain your mother thinks you’re not being supportive. She thinks commiseration is connection 361 Relax and Succeed - Whatever you believe about yourselfwhen really it’s the empathy that creates the connection. Empathy is where we understand the experience of another, commiseration is about pity. In empathy we’re equals in understanding but in commiseration one person is describing suffering and so they are in a state of suffering, while the other person is not describing suffering and so they are not experiencing it. In commiseration there is separation.

Because you don’t view your mother as a beaten and defeated person it is uncomfortable for you to be in the presence of her when that is what she is manifesting. Your discord comes from the differences in the frequencies of your thinking. Keep in mind, your mother can be thinking about a marriage 10 or 20 years in her past or she can be thinking about something that happened earlier this year, this week or even a few hours ago. The principle is the same: if you think it you re-live it and if you re-live the thoughts you will re-live the chemistry and the chemistry creates the emotional experiences that you then translate into the narrative that you habitually use to define “your life.” So it is not only possible to continue to live Then in this Now, in fact that’s what the vast majority of people do. Almost no one lives Now.

Everyone is always time traveling by using their ability to tell themselves stories about themselves. As an example, even you took time you could have spent enjoying and instead you spent it creating your email to me—an experience which required you to re-live your mother’s unpleasant behaviour on previous occasions. Now I understand that you had an objective of increasing your future enjoyment of life so I’m not suggesting you did anything wrong. My point isn’t that you have to choose to live only thinking about the present moment or even that you would always choose pleasant memories. My point is that you will experience whatever you think. The issue isn’t so much about control as it is about understanding. Once we truly understand then we also immediately gain control. Your mother doesn’t need to get happier, she needs to understand.

361 Relax and Succeed - Some people create their own stormsYour mother’s challenge is that she thinks the collection of narrative stories she tells herself and other people is her history. She thinks that she’s locked-in and that she can’t change her past, and because it was bad that means now has to be bad too. Well that’s incorrect and silly and a waste of your mother’s existence. Every human being will have tragedy in their lives. We can’t see this in most cases. It’s not visible. Half the people your mom is complaining to probably have much harder lives than hers. But she doesn’t ask about that because she’s too busy being in pain. She doesn’t see the pain as being what she’s doing, she believes the pain is somehow connected to her past. But if you ask her how it’s connected, the only thing she’ll be able to do is tell you the narrative of her life again. She’ll think that’s an actual thing but it isn’t. It only lives in her thoughts and her thoughts are malleable and changeable and fleeting and forgetful, so we shouldn’t take them too seriously. Besides, as Alan Watts used to say, “Just as the wake does not move the ship, nor does the past move the present.”

I too hope your mother wakes up before she passes. You’re right that she is surrendering her time on the stage to sit backstage asking for rewrites of scenes already performed. But you can’t awaken for her. About the only thing you can do is model healthy behaviour. When she starts to talk about the past don’t engage with it by trying to talk her out of talking about the past because that’s just another way of talking about the past. Instead change the subject. And when you can’t do that anymore then leave and let her know you’re going to do something enjoyable. Don’t ask questions that lead her towards negative thoughts. Don’t talk about negative things or she’ll draw parallels to her own life. Don’t even discuss yourselves or your lives. Talk about ideas or places or activities but try not to talk about people or make judgments. The rest is up to your mother.

It’s important to remember that learning comes in many forms. Your mother may be precisely what prompts you to read my blog. She might be at the heart of most of your spiritual and psychological growth. I’ve never even been tempted to smoke because my mother was a lifelong smoker who used to trap us in hot cars in the summer and it really got me to hate smoking as a kid. As an adult I realize that those lessons are precisely why I now don’t smoke. Likewise, are you familiar with the idea that your enemies are361 Relax and Succeed - I cannot learn other people's lessons your teachers? The Dalai Lama talks about how vexatious people are your instructors. By living in the past and creating a negative psychological environment your mother has helped make you aware of your own freedoms in that regard. By grinding against her negativity you are learning more and more about positivity. It’s why I always say, we’re always either benefiting by joy or benefiting by growth.

I didn’t realize those hot sessions in the car were going to pay off big-time so they seemed much worse then than they do now. Hopefully you can come to that realization sooner than I did, and then you can live with gratitude for your mother’s negativity. For like the irritating grain of sand that is the basis of every pearl, her negativity is likely to be the very basis of your own psychological strengths. And such is the Yin and Yang of life.

peace. s