Posts tagged with "parents"

Father-Son Bonding

I called my dad on his birth­day this week. After the divorce I would never call him, spe­cial occa­sion or not, sim­ply because I needed to dis­tance myself from the sit­u­a­tion. He did call me on mine last year though, which reestab­lishes a sort of prece­dence and rit­ual, and he actu­ally thanked me for the call.

We made the usual small talk, about work and home.

Mercedes Benz SLK 55 AMG 2006

He told me he bought a car: a 2006 Mercedes Benz SLK 55 AMG hard-top con­vert­ible with 18″ rims and 7-speed-automatic trans­mis­sion. He’s going to keep the Beemer for win­ter dri­ving. It filled my heart with quiet joy when he said I could drive it the next time I vis­ited him. Not so much because he was let­ting me (for I was always allowed to drive the Sportline 300CE while liv­ing at home), but because I could tell in his voice that he wanted me to try it.

I asked him if there’s any his­tory of col­orec­tal can­cer in the fam­ily, which the doc­tor wanted to know at my last appoint­ment, to which my dad answered, thank­fully, no. He shared with me his own health con­cerns, the med­ical terms of which he only knows in Chinese. These are things I avoid ask­ing about when I visit him, as he pops some pills from a bot­tle kept with the dishes in the kitchen, and I real­ize that I’m learn­ing more about my dad than ever. It’s not so much out of a need for pri­vacy or avoid­ance of embar­rass­ment, but sim­ply out of con­ve­nience, as these top­ics would never get brought up.

It’s strange to bond with him in this way, only after so many years of leav­ing home.

I remem­ber him try­ing to teach me pho­tog­ra­phy when I was younger, but he soon lost inter­est, in both pho­tog­ra­phy and me1. Maybe it’s the dis­tance that makes us appre­ci­ate each other more, and it wouldn’t be the same if we lived in the same city.

In a way, I’m glad to have the rela­tion­ship now, and I’m able to for­get that I’ve never had it for most of my life.

  1. As such, all my pho­tog­ra­phy is self-taught, aside from one trick used to zoom a lens towards the sub­ject so that the edges are blurred that he showed me at the Statue of Liberty. []

Psychoanalytic Reflections 05

Sometimes I come out of a ses­sion feel­ing great. Sometimes I come out feel­ing like a mon­ster, like some hor­ri­ble, fucked-up person.

During my first ses­sion, my ther­a­pist noted that this was a mutual process. It wasn’t as if he was going to sur­gi­cally remove an issue with me, it would take the both of us work­ing together, with a pro­gres­sive effort from me.

That’s what I’m doing now. I’m deter­mined to fix myself.


  • I have a gen­eral feel­ing of incom­pe­tence, which leads to a lack of trust in my own judg­ments. As a result, I have a very dif­fi­cult time mak­ing deci­sions because I’m par­a­lyzed by the fact that I may make the wrong one.
    • I can trace this back from my child­hood to my early twen­ties when my par­ents were over­bear­ing and would never let me make any of my own deci­sions. In fact, they would make most of my deci­sions for me, includ­ing sig­nif­i­cant ones, like my pro­gram of study in university.
  • The result is that I tend to ask peo­ple for advice on every­thing, although I’m depen­dent on Pat the most. This is because Pat is so smart and expe­ri­enced, and has never, ever let me down. What I’ve come to real­ize, how­ever, is that Pat is so smart because he’s already made his mistakes.
  • This was linked to my anx­i­ety, where I felt like I couldn’t han­dle any­thing on my own.
  • I’ve been try­ing to fix this is to keep in mind that it’s not the end of the world if I make a mis­take, and that some­times, mak­ing mis­takes is the only way to learn.

Unrelenting Standards revisited

  • I real­ized that I tend to have unre­lent­ing stan­dards when it comes to life in gen­eral, but espe­cially in my writ­ing, pho­tog­ra­phy, or art because I feel like this is the only way I will ever dis­tin­guish myself and be worth some­thing. I feel like if I’m not the best, then I’m worth­less. As a result, it’s dif­fi­cult for me to enjoy my life, even some­thing as sim­ple as sit­ting down and watch­ing a movie.
    • The roots of this are more dif­fi­cult to trace than I ini­tially thought. While my par­ents were a tremen­dous influ­ence in terms of mak­ing me feel like their love was con­di­tional, I believe a large part of this life­trap has to do with me mak­ing up for my emo­tional depri­va­tion by fill­ing my deeper empti­ness with success.
  • Even when I do some­thing that I know I should be proud of and sat­is­fied, I feel like there’s always another thing to do, another level to reach. While this fuels my self-improvement and has got­ten me to where I am now, I’ve come to real­ize that there’s an imbal­ance between the effort and the pay­off. I work too hard for too lit­tle enjoyment.
  • I may real­ize this, but it’s a hard habit to break. I have a feel­ing that I’ll need to fix my emo­tional depri­va­tion at the same time to do so.

Psychoanalytic Reflections 03

My ther­a­pist is on vaca­tion now. When he gets back, I’ll start to see him on a bi-monthly instead of weekly basis. At first he sug­gested that we slow down only once I get a han­dle on my anx­i­ety, but when I explained that the ses­sions were putting me in a neg­a­tive cash-flow sce­nario, he under­stood and agreed1.

  • My depres­sion is gone. Most likely, it was a side effect of my anx­i­ety, or gen­er­al­ized anx­i­ety dis­or­der, which is mostly gone now.
    • The root of this is from my habit of pre­dict­ing neg­a­tive out­comes and ask­ing too many “what ifs”, which I’m still learn­ing to control.
  • There’s this idea of learned help­less­ness that I strug­gle with. The big­ger issue is that when I feel help­less, I get depressed as a result, about things out of my con­trol such as the weather.
    • I love how the prac­ti­cal side of psy­chol­ogy falls in line with Taoism. In this case, I think of verse 29 of the Tao Te Ching:

      Allow your life to unfold nat­u­rally
      Know that it too is a ves­sel of per­fec­tion
      Just as you breathe in and out
      Sometimes you’re ahead and other times behind
      Sometimes you’re strong and other times weak
      Sometimes you’re with peo­ple and other times alone
      To the Sage all of life is a move­ment toward perfection

  • One issue I had a hard time under­stand­ing was my belief that attempt­ing some­thing is a waste of time if I don’t suc­ceed. I sup­pose that it seems rather silly now that I think about it (such as avoid­ing get­ting in a rela­tion­ship just for the fact that one may get hurt), but I spent an entire ses­sion on this sub­ject alone. It’s a prob­lem because I give up on cer­tain things before I try, and lose impor­tant oppor­tu­ni­ties as a result.
  • I’m start­ing to become more aware of my auto­matic thought pat­terns. I’d auto­mat­i­cally avoid cer­tain sit­u­a­tions because they would give me anx­i­ety, or pre­dict how other peo­ple would react based on past expe­ri­ences, with­out even real­iz­ing it. This is wrong.
  • I was a lit­tle skep­ti­cal about the use­ful­ness of thought records at first, but now that I’ve fin­ished about a half-dozen, I notice a change in my thought process. Every time I get flus­tered, I think in my head of what I’ll write down later (sim­ply because I don’t have time to write it in the moment) and just doing this helps a great deal.
  • My ther­a­pist is a fan of Chappelle’s Show (which is gen­er­ally con­sid­ered to be a low-class and crude form of humour), because it breaks social bar­ri­ers by mak­ing fun of stereo­types, thereby rob­bing them of their sig­nif­i­cance. This makes him the coolest middle-aged white guy ever, and makes me want to smoke a spliff with him.
    • He also calls weed, “grass”, which is cute.
  1. We’re both baf­fled by the fact that the ses­sions aren’t cov­ered by OHIP, whereas phys­i­cal health prob­lems are. []

Psychoanalytic Reflections 02

My ther­a­pist is still get­ting to know me. Now I have books to read and work­sheets to fill out. It’s some­what strange; I’ve been putting myself through self-help for years, but I’ve never traced it so far back to my child­hood. I don’t like to blame my par­ents because I see how Darren and Pat have sur­vived far “worse” but it’s get­ting more and more obvi­ous that there’s trauma in my child­hood that still affects me to this day.

  • Apparently, I’m mod­er­ately depressed, and “mod­er­ate” is not normal.
  • We’ve fig­ured out that my unassertive­ness is the result of con­flict avoid­ance. Even if I prac­tice a sit­u­a­tion in my head where I say some­thing that may bring up con­flict, I often can’t fol­low through. I feel help­less to fix this, and this leads to a self-defeating attitude.
    • This stems from my child­hood. I’ve almost never argued with my par­ents (there were two times in my life I felt strongly enough to stand up against them, both end­ing in me sub­mit­ting because there was no rea­son­ing with them). I’ve always felt like I wouldn’t be loved unless I got good grades and did every­thing I was told. In other words, it was an extremely con­di­tional love.
    • This means I care about what peo­ple think of me, and I define or eval­u­ate my self-worth through them. Knowing this pisses me off because philo­soph­i­cally and prag­mat­i­cally I don’t agree, but can’t do any­thing about it.
  • Every time I’ve been in ther­apy, I’ve cried at least once. This hap­pens when­ever I bring up spe­cific aspects of my rela­tion­ship with my parents.
  • Hearing my ther­a­pist say, “Wow, that’s bad” brings me a com­fort­ing val­i­da­tion to what I feel.
  • Aside from being slightly ver­bose, my ther­a­pist is great. He’s a non-judgmental, eth­i­cal, open-minded intel­lec­tual. He’s also a good listener.

My Mom Keeps Calling

And I keep hang­ing up.

The first thing she asks, non­cha­lantly like noth­ing has hap­pened, is whether I’ve eaten yet. This is some­thing thing she used to say at the begin­ning of every phone call. One of her old habits, to make sure I’m eat­ing enough.

I didn’t answer her ques­tion, but asked what she wanted. She told me she just wanted to see how I was doing.

She doesn’t get it. I don’t want to talk to her. I never want to talk to her again. Every call is a reminder of the wounds that haven’t healed.

It’s like hav­ing your rapist show up at the door with flowers.