Posts tagged with "parents"

Chip Off The Old Block

I don’t know what’s worth fighting for
Or why I have to scream
I don’t know why I instigate
And say what I don’t mean
I don’t know how I got this way
I’ll never be alright
So I’m breaking the habit
I’m breaking the habit tonight

—Linkin Park, Breaking The Habit

Studies have shown that kids with divorced parents are much more likely to end up being divorced themselves. As role models, we take the way their parents treat each other and use this as a model for our own relationships. And eventually, our kids end up treating their kids the same way because that’s all they know1.

I used to take my girlfriends for granted. It could have been a way for me to distance myself to prevent getting hurt (as therapy has shown), or it may have just been what I thought relationships were like.

I can recall my parents doing the same thing to each other. They didn’t marry out of love, they married because it was the thing to do when you reached a certain age. Eventually, they merely inhabited the same house, not even sleeping in the same bed or room.

It’s a cycle, a trap. But that’s not an excuse for me.

I refuse to be like them. I refuse to end up like they did. I’m going to do my best to change that about myself.

And I will break the cycle.

  1. At least, that’s the excuse my mom uses. []

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.