“Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours!
– Les Brown, author
“…suggested devoted, attentive, and perhaps a bit over protective, parents…”
Talin was a dark haired, 24 years old, a little overweight for her height and very polite. She was dressed casually, but very neatly, with a carefully coordinated outfit that enhanced her image of an aware, informed millennial!
Her father, Tad, who had called me, was 66 and retired from his construction business. He said his turning point to retirement was when he fell on the job-sight breaking his ankle for the second time. He had been ignoring his MD’s advice to get his weight under control for years. He related this all to me during his call to book a consult for his daughter, Talin.
Tad said he and his wife, Tait, aged 60, a SAHM, (Stay At Home Mom), had only the one child and they wanted the best for her. Tad’s comments and attitude suggested devoted, attentive, and perhaps a bit over protective, parents…not uncommon with single child families.
When I asked Tad what he saw as his daughter’s challenges he told me she is still living at home and had found and lost several jobs since finishing high school. She seemed to him, lost about what to do with her future. And, she was unwilling to listen to his advice.
When I asked him if she was interested in talking to a psychologist he hesitated before replying,
“Yes, I think so. She seems so dissatisfied with herself and her life…I think she will talk to you!”
“I think I would like to be a flight attendant.”
So, here she was as predicted by her Dad.
After collecting a brief history I asked her how I might serve her by saying,
“Talin, what goals do you want to achieve that you will be able to measure, and so, see your progress toward them?”
“Ken, our family do an annual pilgrimage to the sunny south. So I have done a bit of travelling. But, for me the fun part is not the destination, it’s the journey, I love flying. I think I would like to be a flight attendant. Is that crazy…maybe unrealistic, do ya think?” she said, insecurity dominating her voice.
“I don’t think so at all! Why do you think so?” I asked.
“Well, Dad said I would have to lose thirty pounds, learn to speak French and learn how to dress properly. Then, he added I’d never be home..galavanting all over the world.” her voice dripping with disappointment.
“I love them…but their relationship is in the way of my future!”
“What does your mother think, Talin?”
“Mom has always said to do whatever I wanted. That has never wavered, except when dad gets ranting when he has a drink in him.” she replied with a sad smile.
“How often does that occur, Talin?”
“Much more often since he retired.”
“Do you think you father has a problem with alcohol?” I asked cautiously.
“Yes, I do! And, so does Mom, but she is afraid of his wrath and has learned to put up with it…for years!”
“So, Talin what is preventing you from pursuing your dream of being a flight attendant?”
She looked directly into my eyes, as if being honest for the first time in our conversation, and said,
“Ken, I’m afraid to leave my mother alone with him. I don’t think he would intentionally hurt her, but he gets so upset with his rants that I’m just not sure! I’m really feeling caught,…I guess, stuck with them. I love them…but their relationship is in the way of my future!”
(Tarek, we need an image of a 24 year old, dark haired flight attendant enjoying her job.)
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
– T. S. Eliot, poet
“… I don’t think you need to be here so much as he does.”
“Talin, it sounds like you know exactly what you want to do but are trying to protect your parents relationship…is that accurate?”
“Pretty much!” she said resolutely.
“Do you think your father would come in to talk to me if he thought it would help you get on with your life to finding a job and career?”
“That’s just about exactly what he is forever saying, he wants for me, Ken!” she said in reply.
“From the information I have from your father and you, I don’t think you need to be here so much as he does. Of course, you can always come back if needed. But it sounds like you have a dream and a good idea how to make it happen. Is that true Talin?”
“Ken, I’ve researched the training programs, their costs, the job opportunities…all of it! Yeah, I know how to get what I want. I just fear leaving my parents on their own…kind of a reverse parenting role, eh?”
“And Tad, being the eldest, remembered the most.”
“Very insightful, Talin. I suggest you stop coming to see me, at least for now, and you tell your parents, if they want to help me, I would like them to come in for a consult. If they have any prior question, please have them call me. OK?”
“Sure! But, Dad is going to be pissed. He wants you to fix me…he sees me as having the problem…not him!”
“All you need to do is tell them to bring any concerns like that with them, because raising their concerns will help you get on with your life. OK?”
“OK! I’ll do it!”
At the next consult, Tad arrived by himself, frustrated and edgy. I did a brief history of his life and found out his own father had untreated drinking issues which were so serious, he died alone and estranged from his family. And Tad, being the eldest, remembered the most.
“…do you know the best definition of an addiction?”
I wanted to get Tad focused on his higher values so I asked him,
“Tad, I want to ask you some very specific questions that may seem unnecessary but actually do have a purpose. OK?”
“Tad, do you love your daughter and want what’s best for her in her future?”
“Yes, of course!” he said with indignation as if I asked him if the sun rose every morning.
“And, Tad, does that apply to your spouse, Tait, as well?”
“Yes, of course! This is really silly, Ken!” he said.
“Please bear with me! And, would you do just about anything to protect them, their well being and their future?”
“Yes, again! Where are you going with this, Ken?” his indignation continuing to grow by the minute across his entire being.
“One more question…a little different…do you know the best definition of an addiction?”
His face got a confused look. He hesitated before responding with,
“What has addiction got to do with this, Ken?”
“Time isn’t the main thing, it is the only thing! – Miles Davis, musician
“… addictions come in lots of varieties but they have learning benefits…”
“Tad, everyone is an addict of some kind because addictions are important learning tools for us humans.”
“I never knew that, Ken!”
“We can be addicted to a belief system, like an idea or religion; a credential like a Red Seal certification; a job like a workaholic; wealth, like a gambler; community, like a volunteer; family, perhaps a handicapped child; or health, like watching sports.”
He was thoughtful for a few moments before he said,
“You’re saying addictions come in lots of varieties but they have learning benefits for us? How does that work?” his curiosity tweaking a bit.
“Tad, addictions, whatever their form, help us learn important things for our future well being.”
“What’s your addiction, Ken?” he asked, challenging my premise.
“Tad, I have several, but one that might be easy to see is I’m a workaholic. I could have retired financially almost 20 years ago, yet I love my work so I just keep doing it. But, I have less time for other important things like my family, my friends, travel, etc.”
“…every addiction, follows a duality law…half pleasure and half pain…at every moment.”
“Why would you do that, Ken?”
“Because of my purpose and highest values, I need to do that to be OK with me. I suspect you may have experienced something similar when you were building your construction business…?”
“Yes, they were long days, many nights and lots of weekends. It was what I needed to do to build the security I wanted for my family…no regrets either!”
“Yes, exactly! So, every addiction, follows a duality law of nature which is there will be half pleasure and half pain to it at every moment.
“Can you give me an example?”
“When you were working hard to build your business and the pleasure of the security, you’re also experiencing the pain of fatigue and not being with family and so on. Can you see that Tad?”
“I can’t deny it…that’s for sure! A lot of weekends, when Talin was a kid, I was working and so I missed a lot of school stuff…just as an example. Looking back, that still bothers me, Ken!” he said, regret shadowing his voice.
“The best way to love someone is not to try to change them but help them to reveal the greatest version themselves.”
– Steve Maraboli, author
“…if a behaviour interferes with your significant relationships, it can be considered an addiction!”
“Addictions really have only one definition…if a behaviour interferes with your significant relationships, it can be considered an addiction!” I offered, to test his openness.
“Kind of makes sense, I suppose…”
“What’s your current addiction Tad, that is interfering with your significant relationships?”
“Ken, I’m retired now so my work is not on the table anymore!” he replied, defensively.
“What’s your new addiction, Tad?”
“Is it retirement? I like being retired… a lot!” he replied, as a way to divert with some humour.
“What do you think Tait or Talin perceives as your addiction?” I asked, as innocently as I could, which wasn’t very innocent at all, of course.
“You’re talking about my drinking aren’t you? Ken, I never drink and drive, never go to bars, never had a DUI!” he said, defensive again.
“Both Tait and Talin have been at me to get help for a while.”
“Remember that definition I mentioned…’interferes with your significant relationships’, do you think that applies here, Tad?”
“Not according to me!” he said, anger in his voice now.
“How about Talin? Does her opinion matter to you, Tad?”
“Of course it does Ken! She is my daughter and I love her dearly!” he said slowly, his eyes flushing for the first time, as he looked away from me, embarrassed.
“From my discussions with Talin, her perception of your drinking and its danger to you and Tait, is one of the main reasons she hasn’t been following her dreams. Does that surprise you Tad?” I asked to assess his level of, not just his level of ‘self’ awareness, but also his level of ‘other’ awareness.
“Both Tait and Talin have been at me to get help for a while. But, I’ve been resisting. Same with my health…I’m carrying way to much and I know it!” he said, the regret forming on his face.
“That’s enough for me! Where do we start?”
“Tad, I can help you deal with those challenges. Does that interest you?”
“Ken, you just told me its affecting my daughter’s future. That’s enough for me! Where do we start?” he said, looking me in the eye.
That was the start of Tad’s journey to better health and better family relationships. It took him awhile but he did do it. The more progress Talin witnessed in her father, the more she took control of her own destiny. This of course spurred her father even more.
Tait quietly watch her daughter and husband play off each other’s progress and everyone grew closer than they had been in years.
“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still!”
– Chinese Proverb.