Courtney Snyder, MD
In these next couple weeks, as we help our children collect needed supplies for school and other activities, let us remember to have inner authority high on the list. (I wrote this post for my other blog a few years ago. I hope it is still useful now).
Reclaiming Inner Authority in a Hierarchical World Gone Mad
(November 10, 2011) by Courtney Snyder, MD
Last week I saw a clip from the Jimmy Kimmel Show in which he asked parents to post videos to Youtube of children’s reaction after they (the parents) tell them they've eaten all their Halloween candy. From an overwhelming number of videos posted, Kimmel shared a few. Why were those parents so up for a task in which they inflict emotional pain on their children, video tape it and share it with the world? Who was so insensitive to them when they were children?
“It was just a joke,” “Where’s your sense of humor,” “You’re no fun,” is how some might respond.
Those children likely hear these things (if not worse) when they express their feelings. The message sent and received, “Your feelings don’t matter.” When children hear this enough, they eventually turn away from their feelings and themselves. They'll likely teach the same to their children.
This sick kind of “Pay It Forward” gets compounded by our broader culture of hierarchies. The result of adults blindly following ranges from unfulfilled lives to utter destruction as is only starting to be uncovered at Penn State. Such devastation requires more than a sick predator or predators and more than authority figures who value image (theirs and their institutions) over morality; it requires "normal" adults who listen to authority before they listen to themselves.
Considering the number of people who've turned away from their better judgment throughout history, it's easy to believe the world hasn't just gone mad, but has long been mad. I have to believe there's a greater kind of 'Pay It Forward', where by listening to ourselves we show our children and those around us that they can and should as well.
Until about a year ago when my daughter would say she didn’t like someone, I’d be quick to defend that person (even if I agreed with my daughter). “He or she was just being (whatever)," "They are just that way...", or "They didn't mean to..." I said this out of fear that she might become disrespectful to adults - to authority. Unknowingly, I was shutting her down. As she (and I) have grown, I’ve learned that her perception (like most children) about people is usually spot on and that she won’t be disrespectful to others - her father and I aren’t, even when we don't like someone. I've learned that one of the most important things I can do as her mother is to listen to her – to her voice - the voice that will be her inner voice as she moves into adulthood.
If my life were to end tomorrow, I'd hope I've done everything I could to teach my daughter to follow her heart - something I write about often. But a happy and useful life isn't simply about following what brings you joy, it's about avoiding what brings you misery. So to my writings, I have to add:
If you feel someone is creepy, they probably are.
If you feel someone is mean, they probably are.
If you feel someone is overly friendly, they probably are.
If you feel someone makes everything about them, they probably do.
If you feel that something is wrong, it probably is.
If you feel someone has hurt your feelings, they have. If you want them in your life, tell them how you feel. A true friend and loved one wants to know. The responses "You are so sensitive," "You're overreacting' or "I was just joking," are not acceptable.
If you feel someone is finding humor at your expense, they probably are. Beware of people who enjoy practical jokes and hurtful sarcasm.
If you feel someone's feelings take up so much room that there's no room for anyone else's, they probably do.
Don't make excuses for other's behavior.
Beware of people and institutions that idolize and follow blindly.
Beware of people who care more about their image or their institution than they do about people.
If you find yourself in a relationship with someone who hurts your feelings and doesn't want to understand your hurt, don't tolerate it. It will be up to them to self reflect, seek therapy or do whatever they have to. If you want to help them, know that the most helpful thing you can do is to not allow them to hurt you.
If they don't change and they may not, move on.
Life is short.
There is an abundance of kind and loving people in the world. You won't find them if you're wasting your life with those who don't know how to love or care.
The quality and value of your life will be determined not only by who you choose to spend time with, but by who you choose not to spend time with. Listen to your feelings and you will choose well.
I'm a conventionally trained child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist. My current approach to health is both holistic (pertaining to the whole person) and functional (addressing the root causes of illness). I write this blog to share what I've learned.