|Mind/Body Clinical Mastery Couples Narcissistic Clients Future of Psychotherapy Mary Jo Barrett Attachment Attachment Theory Anxiety Etienne Wenger Brain Science Trauma Mindfulness Clinical Excellence William Doherty Gender Issues Symposium 2012 Alan Sroufe Diets CE Comments Wendy Behary Community of Excellence Men in Therapy Ethics Great Attachment Debate Challenging Cases Couples Therapy Linda Bacon David Schnarch The Future of Psychotherapy|
|Foot on the Gas, Foot on the Brake - Page 5|
Reevaluating Old Survival Tactics, Developing New Ones. All of us conceive and implement an arsenal of survival tactics that help us get through our childhood, and many of these will hold their value into young adulthood. But sometimes they lose their relevance, becoming vestigial or running counter to the achievement of essential goals and ambitions.
A 17-year-old patient of mine, for example, who during the first dozen years of his life had undergone numerous painful surgeries and recoveries for congenital skeletal malformations, had wisely developed a one-day-at-a-time outlook—exactly what was necessary to make it through endless and excruciating medical ordeals. But this outlook was now interfering with his capacity to plan for life beyond high school: he was so used to "being in the moment" that he'd never learned how to think ahead and begin mapping out his future life. Inviting him to find his "high beams" and look a little farther down the road while reassuring him that he could continue to depend on his "low beams" helped him acquire the confidence and security to begin creating a future for himself.
Contending with the Implications of Success as Well as Failure. Parents have generally spent a good deal of time warning their RYAs about the implications of failing—not doing well in school, not making good friendships, not participating in extracurricular activities—but little time encouraging them to think about the implications of success. After all, success brings its own thorny challenges, not all of which will be positive or easy to surmount.
One 18-year-old patient of mine, who was resisting getting her driver's license despite her parents' herculean efforts to mobilize her to do so, confessed privately to me, "Once I start driving on my own, I doubt that I'll ever see my mom." She went on to explain that family life was so busy that her car-time with her mother was the only time when she could depend on relatively undivided attention from her. From her perspective, the potential asset of more independence was outweighed by the potential loss of closeness with her mother, a relationship that she cherished and wasn't ready to relinquish.
Converting the Nest to a Net
Many of us are well acquainted with parents of young adults who still awaken them and ensure that they get off to work or school, provide them with a generous weekly allowance that replaces or supplements earned income, do their laundry, cover discretionary expenses, or call their employer to explain an absence from work. These well-intentioned efforts invariably contribute to developmental paralysis, creating a tense but perversely reassuring Shangri-La, which can be difficult for both generations to resist. I'll sometimes mention to parents the importance of creating, instead of a nest, a net—a relationship that allows them still to feel like a nurturing parent (providing a safety net against catastrophe as the RYA tries out his or her wings) while taking the hard steps of forcing him or her out of the nest. Asking parents whether their parenting decisions fall in the "net" versus the "nest" categories may help them distinguish between adaptive and maladaptive caregiving.
I'll encourage parents to draw up some kind of bottom line and make it absolutely clear what they will and will not tolerate. When there's extreme resistance to more grown-up behavior, it may be necessary to remind beleaguered parents that they're no longer legally responsible for their RYA once he or she turns 18, and help them prepare to evict the RYA if basic levels of responsibility aren't being met.