RAISING HEROES: Fostering Resilience in Your Child and Yourself
Brad M. Reedy, Ph.D., Owner & Executive Clinical Director of Evoke Therapy Programs
Mike Ferguson, former Executive Director at Sky’s the Limit Fund
About the episode:
Dr. Brad Reedy discusses the importance of finding one’s self through parenting and its relevance in fostering resilience.
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Hey everybody, I’m Mike Ferguson, the Executive Director of Sky’s the Limit Fund. And thank you so much for joining us at our inaugural speaker series event. We’re so happy you’re here. At Sky’s the Limit Fund, our mission is to help make wilderness therapy more accessible for youth and families in need. And since our inception about 11 years ago, we’ve helped over 740 families find the support that they need in a moment of crisis, and provided over three and a half million dollars in grants. This past year, as we know has been incredibly difficult for everyone. But it’s been especially hard on the mental health of our youth. We’re receiving more applications for assistance than ever before. And most of our funding comes from individual donors. So if you’d like to support our our work and help even more families get the healing therapy of wilderness. At any point during today’s presentation, you can click the donate button right up here. Or you can simply text STLF gives a 241444. Now, a core tenet of the work of sky’s the limit fund is providing opportunities for community to learn a little bit more about the work done in wilderness therapy. So our speaker series is born out of this. Basically, since we’re all at home, we have a pretty unique opportunity to gather, spend some time with some of the best experts in our field without having to leave. So a quick note, should you have any questions pop up during Dr. Reedy’s talk, or if you want to learn more about him. The bucks for q&a and Brad’s information is right below. So with on that note, we couldn’t be more excited to be joined today by Dr. Brad Reedy. He’s the founder and executive Clinical Director of evoke therapy programs, the author of the heroic the journey of the heroic parent and the audacity to be you and the host of finding you and evoke therapy podcast. Dr. Reedy has done this work for over two decades and really is one of the most respected clinical thinkers in the field of wilderness therapy. You can learn more about Dr. Reedy’s work at Evoke Theray and Dr. Brad Reedy.com. On a personal note, one of my favorite things about Dr. Reedy is his lens on resiliency, which is part of what he’s going to be sharing about today. And more specifically, his willingness to follow his own advice, really steps into his own work with a desire to discover the unknown. With such a curiosity and absence of judgment. It just creates such a sense of safety for clients, for colleagues, for friends, for family. It’s an amazing quality. And I’m happy he’s here to share it with us. Thanks again for joining us. Dr. Brad Reedy
Thanks, Mike. And I appreciate that you have those books set up in the background? Probably just a coincidence.
A total coincidence. They’re they’re always up there. Yeah.
Well, thanks. I’m happy to be here and honored to be the the inaugural speaker. So I really appreciate and thanks for your introduction, and your friendship and leadership. So in the title today that we decided on was raising heroes fostering resilience in your child and yourself. Like a lot of the things that I talk about, at first blush, it might not be apparent. What I’m talking about, I want to get to this idea of here, the name of my first book, as Mike said, is the journey of the heroic parent. And I’ll talk about where that came from. But when I when I came up with that title, I got feedback from some people saying I don’t want to be a heroic parent, I just want to be a good enough parents. In fact, there’s, there’s this language in the literature about being a good enough parent. And so I teach them about what I mean about a heroic parent. And I’ll talk about that as we go along. The hero is the son is somebody that is willing to look at themselves. I mean, the part of the one of the scariest things for somebody to do in this process for your children, for example, is to walk into a wilderness therapy group or a group setting or therapists office, or for you to walk into an Al Anon meeting or an AAA meeting or therapist’s office, and you’re taking a couple of risks. When you do that you’re taking the risk that you’re going to be judged, that you’re going to be given simple, trite answers that come from judgment, you’re going to be given trite answers, like just just love your child or just hold clear boundaries with your child and everything will be okay. So the hero risks something the hero looks inside of themselves is willing to look and explore the dark corners of themselves. That’s what I mean by heroic and I’ll be talking about that as we go along. Another premise that I want to share with you today. To start off with, and this is the first chapter of the first book. About 10 years ago, I walked into an intensive intensive therapy program I’d been in therapy for at the time. 15 consecutive years probably but I was at a moment of crisis in my life and walked into therapy. And I like everybody who walked into this program came for a specific reason with a specific question. For me, it was my marriage for other people, it might have been coping with an aging parent or some abuse in their life or clearing something up in a relationship or direction at work, maybe a young adult child or an adolescent child. But everybody had a specific question. And the question was surrounded by what do I do? I mean, that’s the therapist. That’s the question that we get most What do I do? Some you probably have specific questions about what do I do. But we were told by this program that we had to set our immediate circumstances in question aside for the first four or five days, and lean into the work that they were going to introduce us to. And really what we did is we went back and we looked at our family of origin, we looked at how we were built brick by brick. And in small groups of 10, we took turns exploring that that really context of our own childhood. It wasn’t the first time of course, having been a veteran of therapy that I’d ever explored my childhood, but the psychodynamic nature of it, the psycho, the role playing the psychodrama technique that they employed really vividly brought up for me my awareness about the kind of baggage that I bring from childhood, the role that I played as a child, and how that fits into the current day dilemma for myself. So I sat there watching the other nine doing my own. And then we got to the last couple of days, where were you allowed to ask our own question? I signed up, I think out of the 10, I think I signed up as the fifth person on that list, because I wanted to pick a safe place to be. And so I watched the first person ask their question, and the therapist skillfully created a scenario to raise awareness around this question. Then I watched the second person and the third and the fourth. And by the time it got to my turn, I realized I didn’t have a question anymore. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. In my life. I knew what the truth was, but I was terrified of doing it, I was afraid that I couldn’t control things. If I showed up as me and told my truth to at the time, my wife, and we were separated at the time, and to other people in my life. And I realized going forward, that my job was to spend my life figuring out what’s going on inside, what’s at play, and how that how that plays into the relationships that I have, and the problems that for example, my children might be struggling with. And I came to this idea that the question is not the question. The question of what do I do? Is not the question. And the real question is a series of questions actually, of who am I? That’s the foundation, which is a sum total of everything that I feel, think believe, have experienced, made sense out of want don’t want? Who am I? What’s my relationship to my child? And what’s my relationship to my child’s problems, or in this case, as I was dealing with what’s what’s my relationship to the problems in my marriage, and then if I kept that project at the forefront, that I had a chance of sorting it out. So I assume most of you are here today, because you’re interested in in a talk about raising children, which I will get to, but I’m really asking for a shift in paradigms from what do I do? How much social media time should they have? When should I buy them a phone? Should I let them go out with somebody? Should I send them to wilderness? Should I take them home after wilderness? All those questions are pressing, and I understand. But there really is a deeper question to attend to. And the decision of what to do comes out of that. Out of this deep work. Most of what I have to share with you today, most of it comes from one place and that is my work as a client, not as a therapist. I have a PhD in marriage and family therapy. So obviously I have formal training I have 25 years of experience 23 years running our program. As a therapist. I have the vantage points point of watching families and children and parents struggle and navigate the difficulty of mental health issues for sure that that that that I bring to bear on this work. But really what I have to share with you today is born out of my work. And if anything is accomplished today, what I hope is that you will find the invitation to do your own work. interesting, exciting and worthwhile. My work is borrowed this idea of that heroic aspect of parent about what it means to be a heroic parent about raising heroes and becoming one yourself is borrowed from the philosopher Joseph Campbell. More. Joseph Campbell was a renowned pathologist and philosopher who studied all of the world’s myths, all cultures, everything that he could get his hands on in recorded history, studied epic storytelling and cultures, even even our movies and our classic stories that we tell, and our culture for entertainment. And what he came up with is the discovery that was there was just one story being told over and over again, and he caught up, called it the hero’s journey, or the hero’s adventure. And, in fact, George Lucas struggling to finish Star Wars for years, read Joseph Campbell’s seminal work a hero with 1000 faces, and finished Star Wars in a matter of a couple of weeks. And that is the heroic journey. And so the symbols, the the ideas, the story, in all of these stories is about finding a deeper awareness of ourselves. And it’s something that we don’t always want to do, oftentimes, the invitation to kind of go out there and find it is resisted. People don’t want to walk into a 12 step meeting, I don’t have a problem. It’s my child who’s struggling, I don’t need therapy, I’m doing fine, my child doesn’t, my child is the one with the problem, I function just fine. There are all kinds of reasons. But there’s a resistance to kind of go into that new context and learn about yourself and discover yourself. And Joseph Campbell outlined this story, and I won’t go into it. But there’s great, a great source if you want. In fact, the the the creator of the film, finding Joe actually put it during the pandemic, he put it on, on YouTube for free. So you can watch Finding Joe there, and it’ll give you a good version of this. But the idea is that all of those, the dark forest, the deep ocean, all of those places that are foreboding, and these stories are a dive into oneself into what we don’t know and to what we’re afraid of, and our struggling children, compel us to look at ourselves. And I’ll talk more about that as we go on. I talked about this idea that no matter the story, the heroic journey is always inward. It’s that deep dive into ourselves. Fred Rogers said, if you haven’t seen the Fred Rogers movie with Tom Hanks are the documentary that came out a couple of years ago. I strongly encourage it because he’s the best teacher of what I’m talking about today. For for therapists and parents that I know. And he said, Anyone who does anything to help a child in life as a hero,
the heroic journey is to look at yourself. Yes, you know, we get into therapy because I wanted to know what to do in my marriage, or I want to do know what to do with my struggling child who’s struggling with addiction or depression or anxiety. That’s the ticket that I purchase, to kind of get into therapy. A famous psychologist DW Winnicott said that the false self brings the raw wrong, excuse me, the false self brings the real self into therapy. And other words, what we think therapy is, is not what it eventually becomes. There are problem solving exercises, there are techniques to reduce symptoms in therapy, there are tools and skills for sure that we learned in therapy. But in this thing that I’m talking about today, it’s something much, much deeper, much, much more foundational than those things. So how do we raise heroes? How do we foster resiliency? How do we build on resiliency? One of the mistakes that I’ve made as a teacher and even a writer is that I talked so much first about how to encourage resiliency in children, I’ll give you the end in in the beginning right here. It’s about seeing and hearing and providing a safe place for them. It’s called attachment, providing a secure healthy attachment, and really seeing and hearing them deeply without judgment. And I’ll, of course expand on that as I as I go along. But what I have learned in my process is that I skipped the thing, that’s the foundation or more fundamental than even that, and that is becoming a self yourself becoming who you are first, and that that’s the foundation that must that must exist for this idea of what we’ll call containing or seeing or attachment. That’s the characteristic that must be present. For that to be built on a strong foundation. It is the discovery of self. The discovery of self is the primary task and parenting finding you without the parent will never know the limits their limits, and neither will the child becoming a self in parenting means that the child will live to learn with an other living with Then other will bring with it lessons critical for life, they’ll have to deal with frustration tolerance, they’ll have to learn how to feel their feelings. Empathy comes out of this process of living with an other, a limited, human, imperfect parent, they’ll have to learn delay of gratification, since you are just a human being a human parent and not an an all powerful all knowing all patient being, they have to learn what it’s like to live with another human human. And they get to learn what it’s like to be a human. Because they’re constantly bumping up against your limitations, your your limits. The way that I talked about it in the books is this, in this way of thinking. And the work that I do, you don’t get to be right anymore. But you do get to be a self. And being a self is so much better. So that’s your work, is to go back and understand how you’re made. I was talking to my therapist today, I still see her been seeing her now for for 23 years. And I was discussing some challenges at work amongst the employees. And we I was reflecting upon her sharing with me over the years, she worked at the hospital, University Hospital in the psychiatry department, she worked. She worked sitting around a board table for many, many years with lots of people. And she said, what, what becomes very apparent over the years is that there’s just a bunch of children sitting around the table, dressed up and old people’s skin and old people’s closed, trying to defend against their own wounds. And that’s really, that’s really what’s at play in these situations. So you find out who you are and how you’re made. And most people think you have to be right and good. I mean, that’s that’s kind of what we’re taught. And we’ll talk more about how that destroys resilience a little bit later and talking about parenting children. But this way of thinking is being you. You start you sound like this, when you’re when you become a self. I’ll describe what it sounds like, it stops being this is the way that it is or this is what you have to do. Or this is the way to treat somebody. And it starts sounding like this is what I’m okay with and what I’m not. And here’s my limit. And here’s what I can or can’t do or what I’m willing or willing not to do. Can you feel that shift? I think a lot of therapists sometimes make the mistake and therapeutic programs make some mistake. There’s an implication in the psychoeducation in our field, and I’m talking about therapy broadly. And the implication is if you get it right, if you do the boundaries, right. You do your communication, right, that you’ll fix the child. The only thing that gets fixed when you heal your wounds is you. And that more complete self tends to have a positive impact on the people around you. But it doesn’t guarantee it. You you in essence, embrace your your utter lack of control. You model being human.
As we think about what it means to be a self, a person, a human in the first book, I called it, I call it being an idiot. And the second book, it’s right there in the subtitle learning to love your horrible, rotten self. Or in other words, your human self. When we learn what it means to be a person and a human because we weren’t taught that. Then we shift to how do I raise a human person. I love Madeline Levine. She wrote a book called price of privilege. And the basic premise of the book, she studied families in Marion County, I think the north shore of Chicago and maybe the Upper East Side if I’m not mistaken. But she starts off with with just looking at her caseload in Marion County and recognizing that all these families come from affluence, what she defines as families with choices and opportunity. She sees these affluent families with choices and opportunity. And she’s seeing drug addiction. She’s seeing anorexia, eating disorders, self harm, suicide ideation, school refusal, depression, on and on and on. And she thinks what’s going on here? Why am I seeing these these seemingly good enough families present with with this idea, and she concludes that it’s because people are trying to raise good kids, well behaved kids. A good child, a good student, a good athlete, a good artist, a good person. And she makes the shift that I’m adopting here in my work and to say, it’s not about raising good kids. It’s about raising a self and that is messy, and inefficient. uncomplicated and what looks like detours and side roads are a part of the journey. Raising a self is the key to resiliency, and it is rare, it is not common. Raising a self means that you are as interested, or maybe even more interested at what the child is thinking and feeling as you are about behaviors. Most of us focus on behaviors. Most therapists, our most wilderness therapy programs are tasked with, here’s the presenting problem in terms of its symptoms, or its diagnosis, and fix that. And young therapists like myself, when I was young, we take up that charge, and we go about trying to fix the child. And I’m suggesting that a complete again, shift from I teach our therapists all the time, it’s not about fixing clients. It’s about finding them. It’s not about symptom reduction, it’s about understanding the client. And then they come back with But Brad, we, we have to do this, we’re paid to do this. And I explained to him, that is how you do it. It is in the scene of somebody that they heal. And Mr. Rogers knew that and he wasn’t even a trained therapist. He never tried to talk a child out of their pain or their anger or their fear. He merely held in a respected and honored it. We learned in this process to honor defenses. I mean, imagine this, just think about this. Think of your child’s symptoms as a wall. You know, we could call them defenses because they are defenses. Think about their defenses or their symptoms as a wall that they build around themselves, to protect them from things that threaten them or things they feel threatened by perceived or historical threats, right, that’s the wall that they’ve built around them. And they’re called defenses or symptoms. And then we you i We walk into that space, with a with a pickaxe or a chisel and a hammer, or even a jackhammer, and we try to tear down the wall. What is somebody going to do? who’s built a wall to protect themselves when somebody walks in that area with a pickaxe and a hammer? Everybody knows the answer to that question. No one ever gets it wrong. When x ask it, the person is going to build a higher, thicker wall, or they’re going to run to find a new place to hide, or they’re going to launch an offensive attack. So how do we get them to lower down their wall? We understand it. We say it makes sense. My son, my third child. We sent him on a on a private one on one trip a couple of years ago wilderness trip of service and back jungle hiking actually in the Dominican Republic and some of the things some of the things that he did. And we went through the therapeutic assignments that we go through in our program, somewhat. And one of those is something we call the hopes and intentions letters, that first letter that you sent to the child that kind of stature, your reason for sending the child on this trip or this program, and what you hope to get out of it. And I never will forget a paragraph in my wife’s letter that to this day, speaks to what I’m describing today and informs this work. She said to my son is not lost on me
that we sent you to this program, in part, to ask you to get rid of the things you put in place
to protect you from us. My wife said, We acknowledged we sent you to this program to get rid of the things that you put in place. That Empire protect you from us. I thought it was such a generous thing for my wife to say in such a kind way to invite our child to start to take bricks or stones out of that wall. So we do our work so we can show up like that. I want to outline this as clear as I can and really talk about what I’m talking about with raising resilient children. I want to be as emphatic and clear and succinct as I can we know two things. We know these two things. We know that number one a healthy and secure attachment. I’ll define that in just a moment is the most significant contribution you can make to your child’s development and mental health. A healthy insecure attachment is what builds resiliency. The second thing we know is that the best predictor of your ability to provide a healthy, healthy and secure attachment is how much you’ve made sense out of your own childhood. I want to be as clear as that Can’t about number two. It’s not how good or bad your childhood was. That is not a predictor. It is how much sense you’ve made out of your childhood, how aware of you, you are of what’s going on in here. How much you’ve explored the terrain inside here. And King Arthur story. Speaking back to the heroic journey, the Knights went into the forest where there was no path, each of them in their own separate entry into the forest where there was no path. And they went looking for the Holy Grail. And although they didn’t find it, they came back with a story to tell to tell. That’s what that that symbolism is about. It’s about going inside of here going and looking at ourselves like to to define a healthy attachment to make it more clear. A healthy attachment is defined by these two things, providing the child a sense of safety and security. And the child having experienced that their feelings, and their inner world is felt and welcomed by the parent. In my most recent book, I set it this way to understand the other, you sometimes have to lose your mind, I write in some one place, it’s like, listen, even if a child is lying to you, they’re telling you the truth about something. It’s like when a child is telling you their story. It’s as if you’re listening to them talking about their dreams. They’re coded and hidden, and hidden behind symbols, and stories, but they’re trying constantly to teach you. My mother in law said to me, she was a teacher for her entire career. And after reading my first book, she said, You should go and teach teachers, about children today. And I said to her, if I went and I have gone since then, to teach schools and school districts, I said, if I went to teach teachers, I would not teach them about children. I would teach them how to hear children. And the children would teach the teachers about themselves. But you can’t hear and see what the kind of capacity I’m talking about. When you haven’t made sense out of your own own life. Like I said, I want to read this, the quality of your childhood does not predict whether you can provide a healthy attachment. You can have a relatively good childhood. But if you haven’t done the work to sort it out, you’ll be limited in your ability to parent. So what’s the implication? It’s your work, do your work, therapy 12 Step support groups, groups that support the specific issue or challenging that you’re having. See, here’s what happens if, if our child is developing a mental health issue, or an issue with substance abuse disorder, whatever it whatever it is, we have to go out there, we have to go somewhere else, to take care of ourselves. To get to get understood to get filled up. So when we come back to the child that that interaction now with the child is in the service of the child’s needs, not ours, if we don’t go out there. To get ourselves taken care of our interactions with our child can to serve our needs, we will want our child to get better, so that we can sleep at night. I think the most basic parenting skill that most educated parents that I’ve ever dealt with, have at their disposal intuitively is tell the child how you feel. Tell the child when you’re scared, frustrated, upset, proud, happy, right? We think that if I tell my child, I’m worried or angry or happy or proud, we think that the child will develop some sense of right and wrong, that our feelings will become their their moral Northstar, about what to do and how to live their life. And although that is common, although that’s even when I came into parenting, thinking, it’s insane. You know the adage of, you’re only as happy as your least happy child. Not only is that an adage that gets shared over and over again. But it’s something that we think we’re supposed to aspire to. And it’s crazy. It places on top of the child’s burdens, our serenity and peace of mind on top of whatever else they’re dealing with. If you found yourself in Al Anon, a program that was initially designed for the family members, the loved ones of alcoholics, originally, it was the wives of the alcoholic men, but now it’s become much, much more broad to include lots of populations named lots of issues. If you found yourself in Al Anon and one of the slogans you would hear is that what somebody else thinks about me is none of my business and that includes my parents. Another slogan that they use is that my serenity is my responsibility. But we take our serenity we take our peace of mind, we hand it we give it to the child, we make them responsible about it. We chip away at the wall with with a with a pic and Anna and a hammer. And we call it love and it’s not. There’s even a euphemism that enmeshed or anxious boundaries or anxiety for parents doing too much helicopter parenting. I don’t like those words, because I think they’re disrespectful. But those ideas there’s an idea in our culture that all of that is the euphemism is, well, you’re just loving too much. Anxious parenting is not loving too much is not enough self. Your child needs to know that you’re okay and that it’s not their responsibility. And then you can be there to support them and help them and it is hard. It is complicated. And it’s not clear and easy. Like someone suggest.
From the price of privilege, Dr. Levine says and it is emotional closeness, maternal warmth in particular. That is as close as we get to a silver bullet against psychological impairment. I don’t love a lot of the parenting literature because it speaks of the feminine and speaks of mom, mom’s too much. And I think moms are already in our culture, just struggling and being crushed under the guild especially when their children are are struggling with issues. But I wanted to find this this idea of love and want. Um, Gandhi said it this way, again, not a not a therapist, not in the role of a parent. But Gandhi said this, he said a coward is incapable of exhibiting love. It is the prerogative of the brave. projection, fusion going home is easy. But loving another’s otherness is heroic. And he said if we love each other, as other, we have a radically taken on our individual differentiation are individuation. And this heroism may properly be called love. The heroic journey is that we work on our individuation that we not make others responsible for our happiness, our spouses, there’s even a romantic idea that, that spouses can make themselves happy. And in my new book, I talk about that for a whole chapter about how insane that is. I actually quote Will Smith, a video that he released a few years ago, long before he and his wife have come out more publicly about their challenges and struggles, where he shares and he said at one point, they looked at each other. And they said, he said to her, I want to see if you can be happy if it’s even possible. And they both came to this conclusion that they were going to go get happy, and then come to the marriage happy. Same for you, as a parent, you go get happy. It’s a simple word. But you go get filled, you go get taken care of by the people that are there to take care of you. So when you come back to the relationship with your child, it can be there in service of supporting them and what they need. Dr. Levine also says we have a we have to be acutely attuned to our own psychological issues, and our own happiness, or lack of it. I love this phrase because it speaks of the heroic nature of this work. She then says we have to be we have to be willing to take an unflinching look at our parenting skills. I was just talking about it with my my management team and I talked about it with the clinical team all the time. I say you know you’re beautiful and remarkable, amazing. And you’re also a disaster. even use a little bit more colorful language than that. But I say you’re a disaster and the sooner you realize and embrace your disaster, the better it’s going to be for your clients and the families you work with in your own children if you have them. In other words, when you embrace the horrible rotten self when you become cow young Saturday’s that I’d rather be holding good. And allanon They talk about good being the enemy of progress. When you when you accept your human Ness, when you realize that the goal not to be good, or great or beautiful or talented those are part of things that we do in life as we work but to be a person is the goal. That’s this work. And people don’t know how to be they think that the goal is to be good. And Dr. Levine suggested, and I agree with her, that was that one of the ingredients, that that gets in the way of all this work, you first becoming your own resilient self. And then raising resilient, healthy selves, is the idea that we can and should be working toward being good. It’s just not that it gets in the way of love. It gets in the way in the listening, it gets in the way of empathy, it gets in the way of healing. I have this phrase, well, I’ll read this quote, because this, I think, is the most important book on child development that was ever written, in my opinion, the drama of the gifted child by Alice Miller. That’s just my opinion, several million other people seem to agree because it’s been selling millions and millions of copies for 4050 years now. But and on our first page, she says this, and I can’t say it more clearly than her. She says, This experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness, the emotional discovery of the truth about the unique history of our childhood. This is it. I say to people, when people come to me, especially parents and say, you know, I had a pretty good childhood, I tell them, you know, therapy can fix that. We have to be willing to look critically at our aversion. To looking critically at our family of origin. We were taught that if we do so we’re blaming, we’re getting stuck in the past. We’re wasting our time. We’re being a victim. That’s what we’re told. But really, you know what it is? We’re protecting our parents. You don’t look backwards to get stuck there. You look backwards to see it. And to know how it impacted you, we all get dented and bruised and childhood, it’s just part of being human. And those dents and those bruises are worthy of our attention. We go back to move forward. And our aversion to looking at our own childhoods is not all about this. But in large part, it’s because we are still carrying around and protecting our parents defenses, we are still clinging to the idea that they unconsciously asked us to claim to that they were good parents. Good parents don’t need to be seen as good parents. Somebody asked me, a reporter asked me some years ago, she said what what are two things you shouldn’t say to your child. So I gave her 20. But the first one that I gave her, the one that she ended up publishing on her list of 50 that she did for a magazine was the first one and I said, Never say to your child that I would do anything for you. That I love you more than anything else, I’d be willing to do anything for you. First of all, it’s not true. Second of all, it’s insane. And third of all, when the child gets upset or hurt or frustrated with you, where’s that go. If the person who was a saint, who would do anything for them, whose only motive is to love and support them, that their perfect parent, if they get angry at that person, then something must be wrong with them, right? My adult daughter who’s finishing her degree in clinical psychology years later, I go and do intensive work at this program that I’ve described, we’ve created our own intensive program at a voc. But my daughter, I sent her to an to an intensive program and when she went for hers, as a young adult, I let everybody on the staff know like my daughter’s coming. But don’t talk about me. Let it be her space. I forgot to tell one person. The director of the program didn’t talk to him. I didn’t know he’d be there. So after doing a big piece of work around me, and how I had heard her she was in the break room with some of her her peers in our small group. And this gentleman without any negative intent, walked in and said, Are you emeriti? And she said, Yes, I am. And he said I’m friends with your father Brad. And I just want to say Brad is a great guy. And Emma felt humiliated in front of her peers, because if Brad is this great guy, then the story she just told was a liar was delusional or was crazy. It’s really important that we don’t aspire to something that we can’t be the epigraph in my book, borrowed from JD Gil’s letters of Juliet says why were each of us taught the notion of being correct. When that very notion ensured our failure in the world. The goal is not to be Good, or right? The goal is to be a person, a self, a whole person. And the goal is to raise whole persons. And that’s really, really, really hard to do. And it is our life’s work. If you’re more inclined for the research aspect of things, the best the second best parenting book out there, the best book that specifically talks about these, this this relationship between between attachment and our own heroic journey. And our chosen resiliency is called Parenting from the inside out by Daniel Siegel of probably the most renowned, and popular psychiatrists in the country, and Mary hartsel. So if you want if that’s your inclination, it’s a great book that combines brain science, research, and practical application. And here’s a quote from their book. They say research in the field of child development has demonstrated that a child’s security of attachment to parents is very strong, connected to a parent’s understanding of their own early life experiences. As a parent, making sense of your life is important, because it supports your your ability to provide emotionally connecting and flexible relationship with your children.
And since I’ve discovered this, this idea about attachment, read this book, and spend time studying it and going to attachment conferences. It’s universal cross cultural. It works in the urban parts of New York. But people of color, it works with wealthy people in the north shore of Chicago, it works with people in Norway and Sweden, in England, South America, because folks are doing attachment research everywhere in all these places, and they’re coming back with this simple equation. Parents work, parents understanding of their baggage of all their stuff of how they’re made, is the best predictor of a security to attachment, which is the best predictor of mental health and resilience. Research suggests Seagull and hartsel say that children who have had a positive connection in life has have a source of resilience for dealing with life challenges. You know, I had some professors and my therapist who tried to teach this to me, but I couldn’t hear it. I think they should have been a little bit more emphatic about it. I’m thinking back. My dissertation, in fact, for my PhD was, I took children from that experience to adverse childhood experiences to traumas and childhood, I took children of divorce, and children with with one parent who they identified as an alcoholic. That was the group’s and I took those two groups, and I said, Is there anything in the family system, anything in the dynamic anything? Any other variables? And they, they had hundreds of questions that the answers these were all young adults, and we looked at satisfying emotional relationships, intimate relationships, as the as the outcome? And is there anything that would predict given that they all had these these adverse childhood experiences, anything that would predict their ability to have healthy, satisfying emotional relationships in young adulthood? And there was one thing, one question that rose to the top in the research, and that was, if the person identified that they had one person in life, and their childhood was consistent who saw them that means that person wasn’t anxious to fix them. That meant that means that person had some, some some kind of relaxation around their symptoms and their mistakes. Their pathology, their mental illness, that those feelings of anxiety that that that a loving parent or grandparent or aunt or uncle, or teacher, maybe even what they were able to keep keep those anxious feelings at bay well enough to really see and understand what was going on in the child’s inner world. So let’s, let’s get a little bit more into the skills and the tools because I know when I talk philosophically and abstractly, I think people get a little bit anxious because they don’t know how it looks in its execution. It’s interesting, one of my most listened to podcast effects, it became a chapter in the audacity to be you is the eight tools, a tools or tips for transforming relationships. I call it different things in different places, but a tools for relationships. And I basically, years ago, I was presenting in Seattle and the group asked me would you come and teach these these people? This group, the tools or the skills that you’ve seen most consistent and families who identify themselves as successful? So I sat down and I came up with a list of 12 things I showed it to my wife and she said, Nobody listens to list of 12 You have to get it under 10. So I will sit down and come And then when I got down day, and I came up with these eight tools that I have seen in my career that people exhibit when they identify themselves as successful. And you know, that sits on the wall in our office, it becomes, like I said, It’s our most listened to podcast, it becomes something that parents talked about constantly is a nice thing to go back to. I was giving an inservice a presentation to our staff a few years ago, and I was thinking about this. And I explained to them, I said, those, those eight things on the wall won’t get it done. It’s not that you do those things. And everything works out. I explained, if you were enlightened, and that’s a big word. But if you were aware of yourself, if you will, we’re operating from a mentally healthy, grounded place. That’s what it would sound like. And yes, tools can teach us. I remember a list sat on the wall of my 10th grade English class, right before I dropped out of high school. For three years, there was a quote by George Orwell that said, if language, if thought can corrupt our language, then language can corrupt our thought. I got something out of the year and year and a half that I went to high school. And tools can they can change us, you know, tools can can teach us. If we follow them, we think differently. That’s what they do. But it’s this is really about a transformation. The heroic journey is a transformation of consciousness. Joseph Campbell, explain that the prophets aren’t telling history lessons are predicting the future. Those stories are about the layers of life. They’re telling us something deeply about themselves. A simple example, I imagine everybody here seeing the movie Frozen. That is a heroic journey, a young girl whose magical powers, she was taught when she was a child were wrong and bad and caused pain for everybody. She ran away and hid in an ice castle, because she was ruining everybody’s life. And then they came and found her and asked her to come back and save the kingdom, which she did. There’s something in our childhood, or some gifts in our childhood, that we can bring to bear in this process. There’s some magic that we have, that we can bring to bear in this process. And that we and we’re told and that we tell our children is a liability. But we have to develop ears and eyes to hear and see them. What gets in the way of listening. We need to be good, we make it about us. Any other response besides listening is not containing. Somebody said to me recently, I had a client say to me, my child is petulant, and is complaining about things. She had asked her child to write an honest letter to her. And the child took it and ran with it wrote this angry letter that was actually fairly well written. And the mother said to me, I don’t I don’t agree with this. What should I do? And I said, Well, I guess it depends on what you want to do. If you want to contain your daughter, I guess you’ll listen if you don’t, you can argue with her. And the mother said to me, Well, if my daughter was being reasonable, I would contain her but she’s being immature and unreasonable. And I said, well, then it’s not containing. Gandhi said, projection. Fusion going home is easy, familiar, as easy. sameness is easy, loving and others otherness is heroic. Loving a child who’s an addict, struggling with addiction, loving a child who’s on the spectrum. Loving a child who is depressed and overwhelmed. Loving other as other is heroic. So we’ve got to build up some capacity. Love is not as Gandhi teaches it’s not affection or warmth. I’ve heard people say that they love their partners or their children while at the same time abusing them severely. graphically. In that sense, love means nothing. But if love is about capacity, if love is about the ability to listen to be present with yourself to hear other as other
than it makes all the difference in the world. When we over identify with our children, we abandon them
over identification are anxious attachment is not too much love, it’s not enough self. It means that we have an underdeveloped self. And we’re asking the child to carry us around in our esteem around. It’s hard to sit with somebody in their unsolvable problems in their pain. And we ask others to change so that we’re not anxious, so that we don’t have to do the work of boundary setting and face our greatest fears, our greatest guilt and shame. We stay angry and resentful, and others, which which can be a sign if we’re paying attention, that we’re not setting healthy boundaries, because it’s a lot easier for somebody else to change than for me to change. And we’re wired and socialized to be the protector, the fix, I mean, it’s part of what we do early on with our children. But as you know, as they grow up, we have to expand and our role shifts and changes. And it’s, it’s difficult and we weren’t shown any of this. And most therapists don’t teach it. None of my, hardly any of my professors taught this. It wasn’t until I sat on the client’s couch. For far over a decade, that I started to learn this until I sat in the room with an empathic, capable other, who wasn’t anxious to fit me to fix me that I understood the healing power that comes from being seen. I tell the story in the book about how, at one point when I was I don’t even remember what the story was. 1011 12 years ago, I was sitting with my therapist, and I was stumbling awkwardly to confess something I was thinking or feeling, or that I did, I can’t remember what it was. And noticing my my difficulty, she stopped me she said, Brad, I want you to understand something. I want you to understand that if you came here and telling me that you were having sex with a chicken I would assume you would have a good reason. And I would want to understand why. And I know the the example is ridiculous. But I remember thinking this is different. This is different than everywhere I’ve ever been in my life. I know my mother wouldn’t have felt that way. And my wife not for sure. And then I can tell my story, and then I can heal. My therapist, who also happens to be a prolific author, and this is her speaking. She says it’s important to recognize that the defense is doing important work psychological work, or the energy required to maintain it would not make sense, ripping away defenses tearing down their walls. We’ve been way defenses does not improve the situation, specially when you call it love and caring, which it’s not taking them away before the person is able to tolerate what the defense is masked leaves the person worse off than before. At least before with the defense he or she could function. Now he or she is incapable both cruel people and inadequate therapists are famous for a desire to destroy defenses without considering the consequences. We learn to honor and sit and listen to the defense’s, we let this work of self inform us and then we respond to the child with that information. Carl Rogers said it this way. Essentially, that to be seen as to exist. In my first book, I quote Jessica Benjamin in attachment. There’s who says that the the discovery of self is almost always found through another person. When that person sees or hears us, hears us. tunes into us. We have the experiences of yes, there I am. And Carl Rogers says it beautifully this way, the famous therapist, the master therapist, he said when a person realizes he has been deeply hurt, his eyes moisten. I think in some real sense, he is weeping for joy. It is as though he was saying thank God somebody heard me. Somebody knows what it’s like to be me. The goal is not your lectures or your anecdotes or your lessons or your analogies. I promise you, the goal is not for them to listen to you more. Although it seems like that will work. The goal is for you to listen and see them more. And to let the psychology of what I’m describing today inform you about how to respond to them. To let the self that you’re working on inform you inform your boundaries and formed your rules and consequences. But the gold is the seeing and the ability to see is based on the amount of work that you have done for yourself. Those of you who have done it know exactly what I’m talking about. Those of you who might be new to this, it doesn’t make Since it seems abstract, it seems a little bit tangential. You want practical solutions. If you want practical solutions, go to therapy. Go to 12 step meetings, find one family’s anonymous coda, adult children.org. Read the books that we’ve talked about today, start to understand what’s going on in here, that will create the foundation, that healing that work will create that foundation for you to be there for your child. After giving a talk on boundaries, I said this, and then wrote this, after all of this, after all that you do, and try, you can say, Hi, I wrote this. Lastly, we can say we are sorry, when we fail. Every parent has limits and every child will discover the end of those limits, we can say sorry, we fall short of the ideal. And with this, the child learns perhaps the most important lesson of all, excuse me. And with this, the child learns perhaps the most important lesson of all, what it means to be human. The heroic journey is inward. The heroic, rare work, if you have a struggling child is to go and do your work and make you the project. Children don’t want to be the project. They really don’t. They’re tired of being the project. Nobody likes to be the project. So we have to shift the project from fixing them, to working on us. Out of that comes the solution. See, getting divorced with my wife or staying married with my wife wasn’t the solution. I kind of finished the story in my second book, because a lot of people complained that I didn’t finish it as detailed as they would like. But I left there. And I realized what my job was. And I realized that how my childhood wounding got in the way of that, that that job or that project, my job was to figure out who I was what I wanted, felt needed. And to be that person to expect expressed that honestly. But I had learned as a child to take care of everybody else. Growing up with a single mother who’s compromised, I learned to take care of her, rebelled against it eventually. But that’s what I had learned. And I thought I was when I got married, I thought my job was to make my wife happy. And it’s not That’s her job. My job is to show up, and tell the truth and learn to listen. And then to listen. So when I laughed, I just started trying to do that more, and tell her the truth. And I would have predicted that it was going to end in divorce, I really would have I thought there was no way that being who I was and telling the truth about myself was going to work for anybody. Like the main character from from from Frozen, I was prepared to go off into my castle unhide because I was sure that that I was going to ruin everything. But my wife did her heroic work and she listened. And she shifted the project from fixing me to fixing herself. The journey of their whole parent is really the task and parenting and the audacity view is really kind of how it applies to all of our lessons at the end of the journey of the hero parents. And I’ll summarize to kind of conclude here, before I open it up to questions is that, you know, what does the hero hero find on his or her journey? And the answer is that the hero finds a new version of themselves. A deeper, more authentic version of themselves, you will bleed and break open in this process.
Having a child struggling with mental health or addiction issues. There’s nothing that’s much more painful than that on Earth.
But helping your child is something you cannot not do. And so you’ll end up in groups with other parents, you’ll end up in therapy sessions, you’ll end up in 12 Step groups.
And what you’ll find is yourself and with that self you’ll be able to be there for the child and understand what it means to raise yourself.
Some of the suicides we’ve seen that have become very public in the past few years that you can hear this in them. They some of them are captains of sports teams and valedictorians and straight A’s but they’re crushed under the expectation the idea that the goal in life is to be good when really the goal in life is to be you And so I’m grateful that I’ve had my story. And it’s been a mess. And I’m also grateful that I’ve been a witness to other people’s heroic journeys. And I’ve watched parents who have taken the invitation, they went into therapy again, because they end up in these, these support groups writing these letters, and these assignments, and these podcasts, and these self help books, they went in there thinking these were the things that were going to help them fix their child, because the false self brings the real self into therapy, right. And what they realized was it was them. They would become transformed. And the transformation was universal. It changed everything in their life, it didn’t take away pain, and sadness and grief. But it made them capable of dealing with it and finding places of support to get it. So that that’s, that’s what it is. The heroic journey is to do your work. The heroic journey is to build the foundation to make you to project and to raise resilience, it is to develop a capacity to be able to see your child, you still have boundaries and limits that come out of your truth, that I can’t tell you what they are, or what you should or shouldn’t do. That’s not my job. And any therapist who tells you what they what you should be doing, you might want to look for a new therapist. But they hopefully create a place where you can discover yourself, you can become your own expert. And you can realize the question is not the question. But the real question is Who Am I? What do I want? And what’s my relationship to my, to the people that I love? I’m happy to take any questions, Mike, if they’ve come up for live questions now.
You’re on mute. I think Mike,
come in live now. Hello, everybody, Brad, that was fantastic. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. We’ve got a we have a couple of questions that we’ll go to. So this one is a bit of a longer one. It’s a two parter. Otherwise, I’ve put it up on the banner on the screen, but I’ll read it out loud and then put it up on the banner? Can we choose this question is can we transform relationships and develop healthy attachment now when our kids are in their late teens or young adults? And the second part of that question is if we did not have the skills when they were growing up, but are learning and applying them now, will that affect attachment?
Yes. But I’ll say more, I promise, it’s never too late to make a difference. And you occupy something in your child’s brain or their psyche that nobody else will occupy. You are bigger, you are heavier, you are larger in their psyche than anything else. My mother said to me in her 70s I had done my work. But my mother driving her back to the airport said to me in her 70s I wished I knew when you were younger, that you were big for me, I didn’t know what to do with you. I was overwhelmed by you. And I’m sorry. And it wasn’t about you. I had realized that already in therapy doing my work. But it was a very wonderful gift to give my adult children, I want them, I want to be the person that can support them. And so if I’m with them, my my older children 2827 26. If I want to be that I want to be that call that they make when they’re in crisis. And the reason that they’re likely to call me is because they know I’m not going to rush to advice. I’m not going to give them simple answers. I’m going to sit with them and ask them what they need, and how can I support them? And so, absolutely, you know what, my mother, I had to give a speech last year in Southern California where I grew up, and my brother was still mad at him for inviting my mother. And I said to my brother, you can invite my mother to a speech on parenting that was speaking of the journey of the real parent, but he did. And if I talk fast enough, which I’m pretty good at I confused her. So that’s kind of like my cover. But anyway, I talked about the journey of the road parent, my mother approached me and my brother afterwards and she came up to me and she said, um, I think maybe I should feel guilty for bad for some of the ways that I raised you boys. And I sent her I said, Mom, it would be nice if you understood the mistakes that you made, that would be a real gift to us. It would also probably inform how you relate to us today and to our children. That’d be a real gift. And be nice to us. I said the guilt is unnecessary. I can’t tell you not to feel it, but you don’t have to feel it. I’m sure it was something you were taught you were supposed to feel when you made mistakes. But I think it’s probably going to get in a way of you realizing what you’ve done. So you better probably do some battle with guilt before in order to be able to see what you’ve done. So any gift that you make to your children, you don’t tell your last breath. If you can be there For them, you can take care of yourself. And by the way, it changes everything. You can I’ll say this again, you cannot not denture children, you will dent your children, you will bruise them. And those bruises and dents are worthy of their attention. You can’t take that away, what you can do is you can do this work enough to show up for them to be somebody in their life that is a resource instead of a liability. You can be that parent that they’ll call when they’re in crisis, and you won’t shout out advice or get anxious to fix them. Right? Yes, you can’t, you can’t, in a way repair the past. And in another way you kind of can, by showing up differently today. So never too late, always growing, always can make a difference. I think that answers both parts of the question.
Yeah. I think that got that got to everything. So we had another question that came in. Can you talk a little bit about boundaries and how they are a form of self care when they directly affect others? Is it a battery to say, for instance, I’m not okay with video gaming in our home?
Yeah, one of the things that I teach about boundaries, the boundaries are not about changing other people. And I think
there’s a second part I just wanted to add in, and if there is no room for discussion that feels authoritarian, and just wanted to,
yeah, I was just talking to our staff the other day and say, you know, one of your weaknesses as a group is that you came from families that were autocratic. And so you’re, you’re ending up with struggling with boundaries, because you don’t want to become your autocratic parents. The fear of becoming authoritarian or autocratic is a real one. And probably a lot of you were injured by that growing up. They call that in the literature and in the foreword to my new book, Jehu, JD Gil wrote the foreword to my new book, new book. She calls it strict father families, it’s a term they use in literature, because they haven’t figured out how to talk about gender neutral things these days. But anyway. We get to see this. The thing about boundaries is boundaries are about I’ll, I’ll answer it this way. A colleague asked me a few years ago, how good are your boundaries? We were having coffee? And she said, how good are your boundaries? And I was struggling to answer because that’s a complicated question. Some areas of my life I’m better than others. Some times I’m better than others. Some areas, I struggle quite dramatically, and I was trying to figure out how to answer such a broad question. And she said, sensing my pause was about something she said, Let me clear it up for you. If you had a client that called you on a Sunday morning, would you let it go to voicemail instead of not answering to teach the client about your boundaries? And I said, Now I understand your question. I would not ads, I would, I wouldn’t make my decision to teach the client anything. I would not answer the, if I’m taking speaking about a healthy balance. I would not answer the question, if I couldn’t do it, and be okay. And I would ask the question, if I could do it and be okay. But my boundaries aren’t to teach you a lesson. The woman who leaves her alcoholic husband, pardon the cliche. The woman who leads the alcoholic husband says to him, this is she’s practicing healthy boundaries and in recovery for her disease, her anxious attachment issue, which is called codependency in pop culture, she’s working on her her disease, she says to her husband, you can keep drinking, I’m not going to stop, and I can’t stop you. And I’ve spent the first 15 years of our marriage trying to stop you. And I’ve realized it’s not my job to stop you from drinking. So if you want, you can keep drinking, I can’t do this anymore. So I’m going to go live with my sister for a while and take some time and sort out what I can and can’t do or I’m going to file for divorce or I’m going to leave or I’m going to leave if you don’t get a tree, whatever you she can set her boundary, the fear that you have about being called autocratic or authoritarian, or selfish or rigid. That’s your wounding. Because that’s what people do. That’s what our parents, that’s what my mother did to me growing up. That’s what your parents did to you. They told you that you were being when you were being you that you were being wrong and bad. They were told you you were, you know, when I set boundaries, people are gonna tell you, you’re selfish, you’re self centered, you’re rigid, you’re inflexible. That’s the pushback that we get. And if those accusations and labels echo or resonate with our history, with our with our family of origin, we will get frozen by those accusations and capitulate. But when you but here’s the cool thing, if you just are working on becoming a self a horrible, rotten self, a flawed, imperfect person, and somebody calls you an idiot or selfish, your responses, maybe so. In fact, probably more than you can ever imagine. But this is me, and then you raise children who are out in the world when they get into an end. I’m in relationship that’s abusive, that they can’t leave. Because every time they tried to leave or set a boundary, their partner tells them that they’re being a jerk. And fill in the word for any other those words you use. When they when they when they say to their partner, I’m leaving because I can’t, I don’t I’m not okay with this. And their partner says, you’re being selfish, you’re giving up. You’re violating our family values around family and relationship. Their responses, you understand, I grew up in a family where boundaries were just okay, we didn’t have to be right. And so I don’t I’m not leaving on the grounds that I’m right, or entitled to leave. I’m leaving on the grounds of me see the shift. Like I said, in those early slides is, in this work, you don’t get to be right or good anymore. You don’t, it’s over in this work. Speaking idealistically, of course, you get to be a self and that is so much better. So you know, Harriet Lerner, my favorite book on boundaries is the dance of anger by Harriet Lerner. And she talks about change back messages when we set boundaries, and that we should expect and anticipate them and know which ones make us particularly vulnerable. And the ones that you just shared are probably your yours and many people’s vulnerabilities. But you kind of have to resist that change back and walk through it. And Harry does a good job in the book I think of of explaining how to grow in areas of self care and boundaries, you will have to tolerate guilt. One of I didn’t talk about this a lot today. Guilt is not correlated with morality. It’s not guilt is something we learned that isn’t everybody listening to my voice right now everybody can think of one or many examples where they would do the right thing and still feel guilty. Parents tell me all the time, I knew what to do on it. I didn’t do it. I said, Why didn’t you do it? And they say, Well, I felt guilty. Guilt doesn’t have anything to do with morality. So you’ve got to find a new Northstar. And therapeutic work allows you to do that. But if you’re not, I always say if you’re not battling guilt, you’re probably not growing in areas of self care and self and boundaries. So you’ve got Harriet says it this way. In her book, she says this woman who was had an aging father, who kept asking more and more and demanding more and more of a time, this woman, this grown woman said, I had a choice to make. I could keep giving into my dad’s escalating requests, and be resentful and angry. Or I could set boundaries with my aging father, and feel guilty. And she said, I decided that I live I needed to learn how to tolerate guilt, in order to do the right thing. So you will get pushed back, and you won’t get it perfectly. And Harriet calls it the obnoxious phase. You know, when somebody first learns about boundaries, they get kind of obnoxious about it. Give yourself permission to be a little bit obnoxious about it as you work out the graceful progress that you’ll eventually get to.
Mike, I can’t hear you.
On a related topic, so much of how I feel is related to the actions of my child, how do I explain how I feel but not make them feel responsible?
I love this question. Okay, don’t freak out on me. everybody freaks out on me. But I say this in the audacity to be you. And I’ve said it for years leading up to it. I say this. I’m almost at the point where I want to tell parents never tell your children how you feel. People freak out when I say that. And I point out that I said almost. And they said Don’t freak out. But they still freak out. You don’t share it a lot. Or you when you when you when you realize that it’s not your let’s use something obvious, okay? Your child has self harming any parent would be anxious about that hurt, sad and scared with that, right? Any parent, it would be unnatural to not feel that way. Telling your child that or, more specifically handing them over your anxiety and pain. So they have to take care of it is a problem. In fact, it’s probably has something to do with why they’re cutting in the first place because we all do this, right? So you go to a therapist and you tell them you go to your Al Anon group and you tell them and they support you. And they tell you I’m so sorry. This is so hard. And if they’re your people, they listen compassionately. They listen non judgmentally they don’t give advice. They share stories that where they’ve struggled with similar things that have worked for them, not knowing if any of those ideas or skills will work for you. And then you go back to the child and you’re there for the child. So There is a misunderstanding, in most therapeutic education and programming, that a solution to the problem is that the parents learned this formal format of sharing their feelings with the child. But it is, it comes at great risk and great peril, because all you’re doing is weaponizing feelings statements, to make the child formally responsible for your feelings. It is not your child’s job, to get better to stop cutting, to stop using drugs so that you can sleep at night. It is your job to figure out how to sleep at night. So you can be there for the child. So it’s a great question, because it’s one of the most common mistakes I made early in my career, in the implication of My Teachings around healthy communication skills, I don’t, for the most part I don’t, I tried to actually have a little opinion about what my children are doing. It’s not really important to me, people kind of freak out at that too. But I don’t live my life the way my mom wants me to right now. My mom wants me to believe to a different. She wants me to belong to a different political party and church. She prays at night because she thinks I’m going to hell. And I mean that in the nicest way. But I’m not going to change. I’m not going to change my religion, or my values so that my mother can sleep at night, not cry. It’s not my job. And it’s definitely not ideal for her to be handing that over to me as if I’m supposed to capitulate to that. So the the phrase, what others think about me is none of my business applies to parents.
It doesn’t matter what you think about them. They’re going to spend the rest of their life trying to get rid of
the critical inner voice that came from your and my anxiety, frustration, anger, disappointment, and fear. They’re gonna have to learn someday, that what their mom and dad thought about them was none of their business in order to become a person in order to steer away from narcissistically abusive relationships. So great question.
another one here? So do you ever worry about your son resenting you for sending him to wilderness and accusing your your wife of robbing their childhood? From him?
Great question. My son was actually asked this question my oldest because I sent my oldest to traditional wilderness therapy for 16 weeks, and the therapeutic school afterwards. On his birthday, I took him to New York during one of my trips to do my parent workshops. And I invited him to one of the meetings, he had some plans with friends, but he said, I’ll come for the first half. And I said, I’m sure they would love to hear your story. And at that point, he was finishing up his master’s degree since graduated. He went to wilderness when he was 1413, he turned 14 in the wilderness. And one of the parents asked him just before he left, did you ever resent your father, for sending you away? And he kind of stuttered and said, No, not Not really. And you answered the question. And I finished up and then said goodbye to everybody left and I, I turned to the parents, and I said, it wouldn’t have mattered to me. Not that I didn’t care. But my goal is for my children. My goal is to have the capacity for my children to be mad at me as often as they need to about everything. And so when when parents worry about big decisions like this, what I say to them is, again, you’re you’ve screwed up already, and you’re going to continue to screw up. When a child comes to me. If a child comes to me and says, Dad, you robbed me of my childhood, my answer would be I’m so sorry. I’m so glad you’re telling me. I’m heartbroken by that. I don’t say I did the best I could. I don’t say I just say I, I tried. But it sounds like it was really hurtful and a big mistake. See, that’s how our children learn to move through feelings as we allow them to feel it. Our this is important, our attachment to them not being resentful or angry or hurt or frustrated, or upset with us, or even our attachment that they move through those feelings, and come to a kind of a place of acceptance. Our attachment is the problem. I did a podcast called what it means to be a parent. My titles are getting more and more simple. But part of what it means to be a parent what it means to be a good parent I think is what I said is that your children get to be mad at you as often as they need to be and that it doesn’t even hurt them. because it’s just, you know, when when your child says that you’re an idiot, your responses, you have no idea. This is the tip of the iceberg that you’re seeing here. I’m such a big area that if we spent time on it, it would take us days to explore the the vicissitudes of my idiocy, right? I’m being funny about it. But that’s what it means to be capable, and present and loving is that you get to think I’m an absolute loser. And I did make mistakes that I didn’t know. And I made mistakes while I was trying to do well, and I made big mistakes, and I made small mistakes. I thought I was going to be a great parent, when my son was born. 20 years ago, my attitude toward him was, congratulations, I’m your dad. I’m gonna go to therapy. I’m going to study therapy and child development. You won the lottery. Now 20 Laters, I realized I’m an idiot. And then I screw up my kids every day. But I’m a better parent than I was 20 years ago, you see that? I thought I was this good. 20 years ago, and I was really this good. And now I realize I’m kind of this good. But I moved up a little bit, just like with my mother. And that story that I told you. Her awareness if she can get to it, of how absolutely imperfect she was, what a disaster of a mother she was, will be a gift to all of us. So yeah. It’s okay, if they’re mad, because I’ve made so many mistakes, I lose count on a weekly basis allows me to be present with them. Thanks for
that one. So on. We’re sticking with the boundaries theme here. If I set boundaries with my child, and he ignores them, and when consequences are given, you did not honor them? What’s the logical next step?
It’s a good question. Let me tell you also, my challenge with the question. I know I didn’t tell you all what to do. I didn’t know I didn’t tell you guys today about how much screentime or when your children should have social media accounts. I didn’t tell you about whether you should have a zero tolerance around drugs or alcohol today. I didn’t tell you what threshold that gets crossed that it becomes a substance use disorder versus experimentation. I didn’t tell you if self harm was was a precursor to suicide, or, you know, what threshold should be crossed that you hospitalized your child? I know that I didn’t tell you that. And I can’t tell you that. It’s a complex mystery. There’s about 30 ways to answer this question. Let me give you a few. Maybe something else is going on with power struggle. Maybe the symptom is he’s trying to escape. Maybe you have control issues. Maybe you’re responding to cultural ideals about how much I don’t know, there’s a lot of things that could go on and that the I know what the logical next step is, I know what it is. And I’m not being I hope this doesn’t sound disrespectful. But I’m going to answer the question as it’s written. The next logical step is go to your meeting. Go to your Al Anon meeting, go to your coding meeting, go to your family’s Anonymous meeting, go to your adult children, meaning, by the way, adult children is short for adult children of alcoholics. It should be adult children or parents. That’s what it is. So go to your media go to your therapist. The behavior, the behavior can’t be found. There’s a quote that I use from Steven Mitchell in my introduction of my first book, I’ll paraphrase it the best I can. It’s talking to therapists, but it’s really about it can be applied to parents. Dr. Mitchell is an analyst and Dr. Mitchell says there is no generic technique or solution. But the therapist participates in in a creative, self reflective kind of way, asking tough questions, explain themselves. And there’s no way to dictate the right answer. So you you, you get curious, that’s what you do. You get curious, you could escalate the consequences. Sometimes I do that. Or sometimes that would be recommended. You could take the consequences away. You could ask questions, but but but the answer to the question is go talk to your people and sort yourself out. Go back to the beginning of who are you? What’s your relationship to your child and what’s your relationship to their issues? That the and that’s the next logical step in this paradigm that I’m talking about today.
I think we have time. We’re going to do one more, and then we’ll we’ll let you go. Brad. Thanks again for for joining us here. So there are there are a lot more questions we would love to do. More, but we’re we’re at our time here. So this is a bit of a longer one. In answering that first question about not being too late in our own work, and your example, just now of children being in relationships where they don’t stand up for themselves, I’ve seen that play out with my young adult children right now. And they are long standing ones, they’ve confided in me a little bit. And one of them even tried to break up, I’m struggling, unsure of how to talk to them if at all, or to give advice, even if asked, I want to say it’s just so painful for them to watch. To watch them repeat my mistakes,
right? Sound like a friend of mine, I mean, like somebody that would be my friend, it’s a painful process. You can ask them, you can ask them what they need from you try to be as present as possible with them in their pain. Try not to give them the solutions now. That would be the temptation. Try not to make up for the fact that you were a bad parent, I use that in quotes. You know, that would be the that would be the the the error is to try to make up for being flawed back then, because you’re still flawed. Again, I’m going to give you an example this is in my work, I don’t tell people what to do. But I give examples of what it would sound like one way it might sound like and there are more than one way. My thought is find a time to confess your mistakes and your idiocy and that you’re still working on it. I’ll give you a simple example. Peer pressure, what we’re talking about a little bit, right. Peer pressure is a funny thing, because most parents want to lecture children about peer pressure. And parents wonder where did peer pressure came from? Well, it came from you. You were the first peer. You were the first one who burden it with a child with your feelings and thoughts in order to try to manipulate their behavior. So instead of giving them a lecture about peer pressure, which would seem ironic, since you’re the one who caused it in the first place, why don’t you confess to the fact that you still struggle with it today, that the way your lawn looks and the kind of car you drive? How much you weigh what your body looks like, how much money’s in your bank account, how your children are doing. And what people think about all of those things, still affects you sometimes. Just confess it. And then you know, your children will do. They’ll give you a lecture about peer pressure. They’ll say things like Mom, Dad, you have to find self esteem from within. And you’re the only one that can make you happy. The same lecture that you want to give to them when in reality. This stuff is hard. This life is hard. Being a self is hard. And if we’re if we’re doing it well, it is a heroic endeavor, because it is messy, and scary and uncomfortable. And the things that we thought were simple and true. We start to learn are not the way that it works. And so be present with them and confess your own limitations, your own project and what you’re still struggling with. You can own a little bit like my mother did on that one drive to the airport. Like, I think I did this to you. And I’m sorry. And if they dismissed you, that’s okay. Just walk away, dropped it. But you can confess and apologize.
With that, Brad, thank you so much for joining us today, I’m, again, we’re really honored that you would spend this time with us and share your expertise. And you can learn a lot more about Dr. Reedy’s work and Dr. Brad Reedy.com and evoke therapy.com There’s also a couple of books that you can acquire the journey of the heroic parent and the audacity to be you, which I highly recommend. They’re a fantastic books. And we just wanted to say thank you, everyone, for joining us today for spending a little time with us. I know we’re all on zoom all the time these days. So it’s nice to it’s nice that folks still want to spend some time and, and, you know, do some learning together. So we appreciate it. And if you’d like to support what we’re doing, feel free to visit us anytime at sky’s the limit fund.org Also, we have two more speaking events coming up that are on our schedule, you can register on our website, march 3 at 1pm. Brenda Zane will be talking about taking care of the mothership, the power of self care and on April 8, at 1pm. Pacific Time, Tracy Hopkins will be speaking on belonging. How do we know who belongs in wilderness? So we hope to see all of you there at all of those. And if you have further questions if you want to, you know leave them in the chat. We’ll see what we can do to get them answered or you can reach out to us at Sky’s limit fund and see what we can do to get some get some answers for you. But we wanted to thank you again. Thanks, everybody, and take care. Thank you
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