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:
- the sooner the man gives up the attempt to fix or change, the better
- 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.