Saturday, September 22, 2012

Weak People Need Therapy

This is what my 15-year old son said to me.  Something happened and I joked that he would need therapy for it.  That's when he said it.  And he meant it.  He would never need therapy because he wasn't weak.

I was struck.  I didn't know what to say.  His 21-year old sister did.  She turned to him and said, "Do you have any idea how rude what you just said was?  Especially to someone who goes to therapy?"

He didn't.  They argued about it for a bit.  I just left the room, trying to sort out my emotions.  Not really upset but definitely unsettled.  Not because his statement implied that he thought I was weak, although that didn't thrill me.  I was unsettled because his statement showed a real lack of understanding and empathy.

After thinking about it for a week or so, I'm trying to chalk it up to immaturity.  He's a 15-year old boy.  He really isn't expected to have much empathy at this point.

But I am doing everything I can to raise him to be a good man.  A considerate husband.  A caring father.  Including going to therapy.

That's one of the biggest reasons I'm in therapy, to know better how to raise my kids.  To know how to help them be good people who are happy.

Because this is something most of us aren't taught growing up -- how to parent.  We learn through modeling, through what we see around us, primarily in our own home.  And when we learn abusive parenting at home, it's tough to know any other way.

Growing up, my heart told me that the way I was treated wasn't right.  Honestly, that it wasn't how God wanted me to be treated.  I deserved better.  Everyone deserves better.

But I didn't know how to do any differently.  Early in my marriage a lot of my behavior with my husband and children was so much like how I grew up.  I had the mentality that it was important for a child to submit to his parents.  That if a child balked at what he was told, he was to be put in his place.  That I had to break their will if I wanted them to be good people.

Even though I was a lot more gentle and involved than my parents generally, when there were behavior problems I still reverted to what I'd experienced.  Way too often.  Partly because I wanted my parents to see how well behaved my children were.  Because I thought having children who always do what they're told was a sign of good parenting.

Luckily I found a better way.  I spent less time listening to my parents' tapes playing in my head and more time listening to my heart.  I spent a lot more time on my knees, asking God to help me do better.  And I went to therapy.

Therapy has changed me.  It's made me a stronger person.  It's helped me trust my heart.  And it's taught me so many truths about how to have healthy relationships.

And it's made me a better parent.

I talked to my son about this a few days later.  I told him he'd hurt my feelings; he was genuinely sorry about that.  I told him I was doing everything I could to help him not experience what I experienced.  I told him going to therapy was one of those things.

I told him he needs to work on thinking before he speaks.  I told him that as he grows I think he'll find I'm one of the strongest people he knows.  And I told him I hope he never needs therapy.

Because then I'll know all my therapy paid off.


From Tracie said...

I love what you said at the end, "I told him I hope he never needs therapy. Because then I'll know all my therapy paid off." That is a huge thing.

He is just at that age where he isn't fully aware of what therapy is all about - and having grown up in a much different situation than you did, doesn't realize what it is like to need it.

I love that your daughter confronted him, and that you were able to have a good discussion with him about it as well. All of that communication stuff is important (and I bet you learned at least a little bit of it in therapy!)

Savvy WorkingGal said...

Wow I love the conversation you had with your son. Such excellent lessons. I often wish I would have had more therapy especially when I read posts about how far others have come. I quit thinking it wasn’t helping – plus there were all sorts of restrictions – your insurance only pays for 7 sessions – your insurance only pays for group therapy – I can only see you at 2:15 p.m. on a work day.
When my parents became angry or frustrated they would respond with criticism. I am sure I would have been the same kind of parent because I see myself responding that way with my siblings and in the workplace. I am really trying to work on it though. I admire your strength.

Rubye Jack said...

My experience with 15-year old boys is that they are working on cutting the apron strings and striving for independence.
Also, perhaps he has thought he would like someone special and separate to talk to such as a therapist but decided he would be weak to ask for that kind of help. Personally, I think all 15-year old boys need someone outside the home who can be trusted to share their fears and concerns with. It's a time of great change.
You really did handle this well Robin.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. I am in therapy as well, and have heard that line thrown at me several times. 'Therapy is for weak people'. That couldn't be further from the truth. To admit that you don't have all the answers and that you need help to figure things out, shows strength. It's a pity some people can't see that.

Miz Dinah said...

Therapy is for the strong-enough-to-work-on-it. Weak people don't go to therapy. Good for you for taking one for the team and for helping your son understand.

Lisa said...

Thanks for sharing this and being open enough to discuss your experience with therapy.

So many "men" believe that therapy is a sign of weakness, how wonderful that you addressed this with your son as he prepares for manhood.

Anonymous said...

I think you handles this beautifully! Happy SITS weekend.

Weather Anchor Mama said...

Wow! That's what I was left saying to myself after reading your post. Years ago, I would have agreed with your son. In fact, I refused therapy back in the day because I felt that I was strong enough to deal with things on my own. In retrospect, I wish I would have at least given it a try. I now actually believe that strong people go to therapy. Before my hubby and I got married, we attended a few sessions. It helped tremendously. I think it's so great that you're going so that you can better parent. Think of all the parents who don't. they end up doing something bad to themselves and/or their kids.

Kathy Penney said...

I always thought I was strong because I didn't need therapy after a difficult childhood (despite an amazing mom) but then post partum depression knocked me for a loop and therapy was my saving grace. I also struggle not to let baggage seep into my marriage and my parenting but it does and it's just recognizing it and keep trying. The strength is in know when you do need help and not being afraid to ask for it. Thanks for stopping by Pinner Takes All.

Bonnie said...

My 18yo son said a couple of weeks ago, "I'd rather DIE than be fat." I just had to laugh.

He's young enough to think that he's earned what he now enjoys. I used to think that too, and then I realized that sometimes you're "in good shape" because life hasn't happened to you yet. So I just raised an eyebrow and smiled, while everyone else looked back and forth between us and he suddenly got wide-eyed and sorry.

Life happens to everyone. My oldest has become much more kind since life has really started happening to her, and suddenly I'm a little smarter and a little more worth treating kindly. Good on ya for hanging in there. Life will happen to the boy, and you've prepared him well.

Katy said...

Way to go, Robin. He does listen to you and admire you. I can tell from the comments he makes in class. You are raising a good boy. :)

April Deonna said...

I have a 15year old son as well. And yes, they a way with words! Especially at this age because they have matured enough to have an adult-like opinion about something (so they think) but no life experiences to back it up. Just be grateful that he made the comment.. even in his full ignorance, it opened the door for a conversation to educate him. By the way, you are doing a great job!

WhisperingWriter said...

Great post. I know that therapy has helped a lot of people. I won't hesitate to go if I feel I need it.

Anonymous said...

I am all for therapy! I have been in and out for years - and am grateful to know it's always there for me - especially to help me with my parenting for the same reasons you have suggested!

ain't for city gals said...

Hi..I came over from Rubye Jack...we only do what we know...thank you for making the effort for breaking a "cycle" in life..for now your son doesn't know how lucky he is that you did..but he will someday soon.

Blond Duck said...

I think it takes a strong person to go to therapy. Admitting and working on problems isn't something weak people can do.

Bev Feldman said...

I was just thinking the same thing that Blond Duck wrote. I think unfortunately there is still a lot of stigma in our society about going to therapy, it's something people feel like they aren't supposed to tell others they do. I agree that it takes a lot of strength to go to therapy and to recognize the things we would like to change in ourselves. Hopefully as your soon gets older he will understand this himself.

Kristiina said...

Thank you so much for this post. So powerful.

Yolanda Renee said...

You handled it beautifully, and that says your therapy is paying off!

One day your son will tell you what an inspiration you've been to him. That will make all the difference in the world!

Pricilla J. Designs said...

There's such a stigma around therapy. It can be so cathartic and rewarding to have someone to sit with a sort out your emotions. It can actually feel like a guilty pleasure to focus one hour a week to just you and your needs. I'm not sure why everyone doesn't experience it at one point or another.

Thank you for sharing and also commenting on


Jessica Grace said...

Really strong people acknowledge when they need help. You are incredibly strong and brave. Even if you needed help look at what you have over come. So many people just succumb to abuse and depression but you did something about it and that is real strength. Showing children how to grow into decent human beings an being as healthy as you know how to be shows strength as well.