Dad was what he was
What I can’t do about it
What I can do about it
My Dad was a great guy, and a bit mean, especially if he drank. He was hard on himself and hard on me.
His preferred mode of communication was criticism, though he did have his moments of friendliness and curiosity.
In other words, he was imperfect.
And somewhere along the line, I decided to torment myself with this story, this belief, this opinion:
“My Dad shouldn’t have been so critical of me.”
All I needed to do was recall one of his red-faced tongue lashings and I could be unhappy.
Just what everyone wants, right?
To be unhappy.
Joking aside: we spend so much of our lives making ourselves unhappy, that it’s as if that is one of our major preoccupations.
Except we don’t need to go into too long or too severe a weary Alas.
Alas on the upside, we can play this game, the work of Byron Katie game.
Judge your parent.
Write it down: “My Dad shouldn’t have been so critical of me.
Ask for questions.
Turn it around.
“My Dad shouldn’t have been so critical of me.
Is it true?
Depends what true means.
If true is what I think, then this is true.
If true is what a bunch of people might agree about how fathers should treat their sons, this is true.
And . . .
If “true” means something that holds up no matter what I or others believe, gravity say, then this sentence - - -“My Dad shouldn’t have been so critical of me” - - - is not true.
Much as I imagine I would have been better off (another story that again falls into opinion rather than truth), the truth is this:
He was critical.
And is it true that I “deserved” one of the 10%, 20%, 30% truly nice Dads that happen for some people?
Is it absolutely true - - -“My Dad shouldn’t have been so critical of me” - - -?
Absolutely is a neat way of jacking it up to: in the order of the whole Universe, is it true that I should have been in the blessed 10, 20, 30% with the nice Dads.
Somehow God got it wrong when my father and I were assigned to each other.
And still we are back at what I wanted, and what other people might agree about, vs the reality.
Reality: Dad was what he was.
It is NOT absolutely true that he should have been different.
And before three, let’s speculate a little about all the “creeps,” and “jerks,” and “assholes” in our lives.
Can any of them really do better than they are doing?
Probably they are like you and I, pretty decent some days, pretty rotten at some moments of stress. (And some people, themselves unhappy and full of inner stories keeping them unhappy, are almost always in stress. Dad was like that. Hence the one, two, many drinks each night.)
And so, under stress, since they are mindless and unable to chose, they act out programming that is no so great.
And that hurts/ wounds/ bothers us.
Okay, that happens, and then: do we keep up the wounding by repeating sentences like this - - -“My Dad shouldn’t have been so critical of me” - - -.
Or do we grind this and any stressful thought through the four questions.
(There are other ways out, gratitude for example. And pure, wordless presence for another.
And . . . know what to do with the - - -“My Dad shouldn’t have been so critical of me” - - -thoughts is crucial to coming back to our natural state of happiness and peace.
The peace that passes all understanding, actually.
Except you can understand it.
If you are making yourself un-peaceful.
And stop that.
You become peaceful.
Back to the 4 questions . Only two more.
How is my life and my inner world when I believe the thought - - -“My Dad shouldn’t have been so critical of me” - - -?
And this question is a good occasion to drag out pen and paper.
Write down the laundry list of how I’ve reacted and felt over and over throughout the years when I’ve fed myself a dose of - - -“My Dad shouldn’t have been so critical of me” - - -.
Feeling I’m damaged.
And so on. The list goes on and on.
This is worth noting.
In fact, this is one of the most important realizations in life: I can create inner misery by believing a short sentence. In this case eight words - - -“My Dad shouldn’t have been so critical of me” - - -
And now, a different point of view.
A different perspective.
I encourage people to sit or stand in a new spot to ask question
Who or what would I be without the thought - - -“My Dad shouldn’t have been so critical of me” - - -
who or what would I be?
And this isn’t thinking of my Dad at his best.
This is imagining him at his ugliest, really laying into me with the criticism and the meanness.
And . . .
My game is to feel, imagine, experience who and what I am if I don’t have any belief or thought that - - -“My Dad shouldn’t have been so critical of me” - - -
What happens happens in layers, because with a deep wound like this you do it over and over.
I did it over and over.
The important part is this
GO BACK AND FORTH FROM THE CHAIR OR THE PLACE ON THE FLOOR THAT IS THE “BELIEVE THE STORY” YOU
TO THE CHAIR OR PLACE ON THE FLOOR THAT IS THE “DON’T BELIEVE THE STORY” YOU
With my Dad the first breakthrough came when I could breathe easier, and watch my memory of him being critical, and I had no push back. No idea that he “should” be different.
No demand that he stop this behavior.
I was free.
I was free of wanting him to be different.
I was free of wanting to rewrite history.
I was free of wanting him to be different than he was.
I could begin to let the obvious Reality become clear: he was he; I was me.
His behavior toward me was never and never would be influenced by my not liking it.
When I let go, what happened?
I began to breathe in a new freedom that eventually ended in me having a great deal of compassion and love for him.
And don’t forget:
You don’t, I didn’t, have to “let go of the story.”
You just keep trying out the two:
Here I am believing the story.
Here is where I am when I don’t believe the story.
Back and forth.
Who is the real me?
You try it.
Easy to say
Not that hard to do, actually
Here’s a fun way to look at life:
Loving ourselves is over and over proposed as the cure for relationship issues, and happiness issues, and even health issues.
And then, usually, it gets lost in a morass of how can I stop having critical inner voices.
Or even worse, the game shifts to endless “affirmations,” even to the blunt clarion call: “I love myself.”
Humbug, loving yourself is not spouting I love myself, I love myself over and over again.
(Looking in the mirror and feeling love can do some good, but that isn’t what we are after today).
Here’s the way out:
Love both your parents.
Because each one is part of you, a big part of forming who you are. (If they were missing mainly, that missing is a big part of who you are).
Loving them, in spite of their imperfections means you are well on the way to loving yourself, in spite of all your imperfections.
And that’s the path, right?
Not to make yourself perfect, so there is nothing to nag against.
You will get better and better as you love yourself, and the crucial step is to notice your own imperfections and not go crazy on yourself.
You might see some fairly rotten behavior that needs to be cleaned up.
Fine, devise strategies to clean it up.
But hating yourself for messing up is to hate yourself for being human.
Can’t work if your goal is to enjoy others and be kind to yourself.
You are flawed and so be it.
The self-love has to be a commitment to coming back to awareness and the now and acting in ways that you, the real you, want to act.
And what does this have to do with your parents.
Loving our parents doesn’t mean the sticky sweet, “Oh I love my parents,” that denies any of their funky elements.
If you were lucky enough to have really really great parents, then they loved you a lot and you can easily love yourself a lot.
So this section isn’t for you.
This is for those of us who wouldn’t mind loving ourselves more.
And the route: to love our parents more.
And the protests . . . But, but, but . . . they started it, they wounded me, they didn’t love me.
Why should I love them?
Well, the first step, is the Byron Katie step: Don’t love them yet, or even call it forgiveness.
But play often and play hard at noticing the inner weather, your peace/ stress rating when you feel and believe the “should” or “shouldn’t” about them, and when you don’t believe it.
They wounded you, back then, sure.
And now, if you go over and over in your mind thoughts like the last chapter, “My father shouldn’t have been so critical,” who is doing the wounding. My dead father, or my inner beliefs?
And then we can keep working/ playing.
Taking every hurt/ should/ wound/ shouldn’t about both parents and playing the comparison = learning game over and over:
Who am I with the story?
Who would I be without the story?
There are a couple of other ways to improve our love for our parents, even though they, like us, are imperfect.
One, is doing the turn around, which will be tomorrow’s chapter. They were mean. When are we mean? They were insensitive. When are we insensitive.
Two, go outside, look at something beautiful. Sense your breathing and your arms and legs and spine. Notice the miracles of seeing and hearing. Feel the miracle of being alive.
Realize: without them, no life, no you.
Three, get a bit busy writing down 5-9 gratitudes. For each.
If they are alive, mail them to them.
If they aren’t, tell someone else your gratitudes for each parent.
Once a week: write parents gratitudes. Mail them or speak them.
And if they don’t answer the mail and jump up and down with reconciliation energy: so be it.
Your hurt is your work, not theirs.
And until we get the work of feeling bad out of blaming others for that we can’t love imperfect parents, can’t love ourselves.
Life is still good, but it’s a lot harder when we are hard on ourselves.