Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Are You a Good Son (Mother, Father, Partner, etc. etc.)?

A friend of mine (male, early 30s) is living a mountain range away from his mother.  His father died a couple of years ago and his mom (late 50s) has been trying to get on with her life.  He said he wants to be a good son.  I asked him, "What do you think being a 'good son' means?"

He didn't know.  He hadn't thought of it in terms of a set of criteria.

We want to be "good" partners, friends, and family members even when there are difficulties with the other person.  If we are in a relationship, we generally want to do our part to make it good.  It might be useful to have specific behavioural goals instead of assuming goodness.  People who need to protect themselves from difficult parents might still want to be a "good" son or daughter.  Guilt and a sense of duty might push them towards family, but fear, ambivalence, or resentment pulls them away.

If there's closeness, respect, and acceptance, we want to be around family and do all we can together.  Some people, however, need to put up boundaries of protection and be free to create themselves.  In these cases it might be helpful to define for yourself what it might mean to be a good whatever.  Set minimum actions (e.g. phone once a week).  As the relationship changes, eventually your actions will be fearless and spontaneous and flow from open-hearted love.

When my daughter was young, I decided that being a good mother included giving her swimming lessons.  A lot of "what is a good mother" had to be figured out.  It's not instinctive.  It might be the same with all our roles.

Self-Definition Goals

Some goals are long-term goals that we set out to achieve step-by-step:  complete a degree, find a job, run in a marathon, and so on.

Other goals involve ways of being:  being a good employee, partner, or parent.  If my goal is to be a "good" daughter to an elderly parent, or a "good" partner in a relationship, what does that mean specifically?  We could ask the other person and consider their answer, but their definition of "good" might be different from our own.

Can you define your roles, at least partly, in terms of specific realistic behaviours?  What is one of your most important self-definition roles (student, sister, brother, daughter, son, lover, team member, parent, etc.).  Pick one and think of some specific behaviours:

I would consider myself a good ________________________, if I

1. ___________________________________________________________

2. ___________________________________________________________
3. ___________________________________________________________

You can then measure your level of achievement against your own criteria -- not someone else's.  You don't have to feel inadequate or guilty all the time, and you can fortify yourself against other people's accusations of inadequacy.

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