September 10, 2017
Notes from Jean Hantman — Occasional pop-up
Why is the most resented and unloved woman/mother/wife I’ve worked with also the one who proclaimed most often, with calm certainty, how much she is loved, by everyone who knows her?
Parents puzzled by an adult child who either flees or doesn’t but is impatient, detached, and avoidant, lament: I don’t get it! How I loved that child!
The question is this. Were they loved in return? Aside from imagining, what do they base this assumption on?
Unspoken parental assumptions can lose you a kid. The assumption, as an example, that clinginess is love is often not the case. The most common faulty assumption is that showing up for holidays, and other dutiful behavior, is connected to love.
Love is a feeling, not a behavior. It can be acted on to give and get pleasure. It can be hidden, denied. It can be distorted and misunderstood, withheld.
Loving behavior is a mission, not a feeling. It’s a project, an education that needs to be gotten from someone, somewhere, either from the parents or someone else, if the parents disappointed.
No feeling or wish makes an impact without back and forth talking. Too many people spend lifetimes thinking others can read minds so without having to say a word, they’ll get their wish.
In a silent family, afraid to feel, conversations occur in the imagination of each, separately, not out loud. Then (in an example of what has been called the “psychosis of everyday life”), what was only imagined is believed to be true, a belief based on nothing, a wish.
Picture four people in a family having four different, silent, imagined conversations. No one has any idea what the others think and want. But they think they do, they believe their own lonely, unspoken guesses, which are almost always wildly different from what the others are guessing/wishing.
In homes that breed puzzling estrangement or avoidance, the parents love but have little interest in any family activity except obligation, birthday cards, obedience.
All other family topics are forbidden. Children learn this in the first year of life. Don’t say that. Don’t use that word. Don’t hurt Mom. Don’t make Daddy angry.
Dark feelings and wishes are intolerable to many parents, who then shut their kids down. As adults these children are inclined to leave altogether or stay but stay distanced. How they loved them!
(Note: Often the opposite feelings, too, are intolerable for many parents to give or receive, like affection, interest, recognition, gratitude, companionship.)
So be careful what you settle for.