Social and cultural expectations are killers. We have our accepted notions of what it is to be a certain type of person (male or female for instance) and we are happiest when people live up to our expectations, not necessarily their’s.
We think, and often say, things like:
- I wish he would get a real job,
- I wish he would get a haircut,
- I wish he would dress better, or
- I wish he would tidy his room
and have thoughts like:
- why doesn’t he have any friends?
- why didn’t he get the promotion?
- why didn’t he get picked for the team?
- he needs to get off his lazy fat arse and go get a job.
- he has no motivation, no drive.
We think we know what he wants, what he needs and what will make him happy:
- he wants a better job so he can earn more money,
- he needs a better girlfriend that will make him more successful,
- he should be a lawyer, an accountant or an investment banker
- he needs to become more independent.
All of these thoughts and questions are about how we feel, how he makes us feel and our own sense of shame.. Its about our expectations and our fears.
- I wish that he had a better job because that would make me look like I have been a better parent.
- I wish he would get a hair cut because I feel better about myself when I have had my hair done.
- I wish he had more friends because I feel unworthy when I don’t have friends. I fear that I am not liked.
- When he wears those old clothes it looks like I cant afford to buy him new stuff and says that I am a failure.
- I am hurting and full of my own insecurities. I cannot deal with his problems as well.
Rather than focus on these symptoms we need to be thinking more about the shame that we are feeling and why we are feeling it.
What does it really matter if he is in a dead-end job that we wouldn’t like, doesn’t have a girlfriend that we approve of or he doesn’t contribute around the house as we wish he would in order to keep us looking all flash and respectable?
I will tell you something for free; none of this is going to matter to you either, when one day you get a knock on your door and the cops are there to tell you that your depressed, emotionally repressed son has just killed himself.
All of a sudden the messy room, the long hair and untidy clothes won’t matter. All of a sudden you will hope that that girl friend that he chose to be with, but you didn’t like, was able to make him happy.
Instead of telling him that he should tidy his room, cut his hair and get a job. Instead of telling him to stop crying or trying to cheer him up so that he will. Maybe you need to be asking yourself:
- why is he not meeting my expectations,
- why am I feeling this shame,
- why does he cry like a girl,
- why is this all so important to me and will it all still seem so important tomorrow, next week or next year,
- why does none of this seem important to him,
- what is it that is important to him,
- why don’t I really know what he is feeling or thinking?
If we are happiest when others meet our expectations and then we are saddest when they don’t.
What is most important, your happiness or his?