Fix. Change. Resist. Repeat.

ResistanceTrilogy_Hero

The man on the phone is speaking about his relationship with his teenage son. Things are not going well. The man has the experience that the son is keeping him at arm’s length, not allowing he, the father, to get close to him. Whatever overtures he makes, the son ignores or rejects them.

At the same time, the man is worried his son doesn’t have the drive and commitment to finish things or take action. The son has the opportunity to apply for a scholarship for a specialist training program and a good chance of winning it. However, instead of applying, the son puts it off and plays computer games, and the man’s frustration and hurt and anxiety grows.

Listening to him, I feel compassion for the man and his son, and also recognition. I have one or two relationships like this, as do my friends.

There is something else there for me in listening to him. I can hear what is giving the situation, whereas, being close to it, I can’t always hear it in my own situation.

*

It’s clear the man is attempting to fix or change his son, and the son is, rightly, resisting it.

The more the man tries to fix or change, the more the son resists and retreats. It cannot be any other way because change always reproduces the issue. In attempting to fix or change a person or a situation, we are effectively declaring the person or situation is not OK as it is. Therefore, the more we attempt to fix or change, the more the person or situation shows up as not OK. It has to be this way. It cannot be any other way. Each facet of the situation – on the one hand, the fixing and changing, and on the other, the not OK-ness – gives the other.

As the French say, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose“, or as others put it, “Resistance causes persistence”.

*

There are two things to get about such a situation:

  1. the sooner the man gives up the attempt to fix or change, the better
  2. underneath the not OK-ness of the situation is some story the man is telling himself about himself, and it will be an old story that he’s been telling himself since he was a child which sounds like one of the following, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m bad”, “I’m unlovable”, “I’m not smart”, “I don’t matter” and other variations; to say it another way, it has little to do with the son and everything to do with the man himself.

As it is for the man, so it is for you and me.

*

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9 thoughts on “Fix. Change. Resist. Repeat.

    • And who are we to say they’re not OK as they are? God? The arrogance is extraordinary when I think about it.

      All well with me, Kimmy. How are you, sweets? What’s happening in your life that’s exciting you? xxx

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  1. I’ve been in this situation far too many times with my son and I finally learned something similar to what you say here and something different, too.

    Yes, I was trying to fix him and he was resisting. The “fix” was based on my expectation for how he “should be.” I came to every conversation with him with an outcome already in mind. If he didn’t “deliver” (and he never did), things did not go well.

    So I let go of my expectations, which was very difficult. But I did because I could see that I was ruining my relationship with my son. Gradually, he began to understand that things between us had changed. He was no longer on the defensive and our interactions were pleasant. He began calling me more often and now we are very close.

    So I changed and he did not resist! :)

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    • Voila! That’s it. You stopped trying to fix and change, and the resistance fell away. Thanks for sharing a personal example, Lorna. Very generous.

      I think it’s particularly tough for parents because the child came from one’s own body, and I imagine it can feel like one “owns” the child and the child should therefore do what one says/wants (I’m not a parent so I’m speculating). The shock of having a child be some way other than one expects must be quite something.

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      • Yes, it’s quite a jarring experience to learn that your child has become his.her own person. But, when you think about it, that’s what you and I became, right? Our parents had to deal with the same thing. My ex husband did not have as easy a time letting go of the control and “fixing” issue. They still bump heads from time to time I’m sorry to say.

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  2. We cannot “fix” anyone. The recognition and desire have to come from the other person. And how can we know that they need fixing? Each to himself. Too many marriages founder when based on the premise that one or the other can fix what is wrong with the other.

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  3. You are so right about the old, old story the man is telling himself. It passes along from generation to generation, until someone breaks the cycle. One son becomes a father and doesn’t let expectations or past experiences determine his relationship with his own son.

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    • And then his past experiences determine his relationship with his daughter :) I don’t want to imply the man is wrong or bad in letting his past experiences determine his relationship with his son because that’s more of the same, more of viewing the situation as not-OK (and, in turn, will give rise to attempts to fix and change). All human beings do it. In my view, the way out of the trap for the man is one thing: to distinguish that that’s what he’s doing. And nothing more.

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