Recently a man reached out to me primarily to better his relationship with his son. He separated from his spouse a couple of years ago when his son was 13. He and his ex have a good ‘texting’ relationship and are co-parenting quite well.
When I asked him further about his interactions with his son, he described very little talking, despite the open-ended questions the father was asking his son. He received only one-word answers. He presumes his son is angry about leaving his mom and perhaps spending the time between the two houses.
I still wasn’t convinced that the father was seeing the whole picture. He was presuming his son was angry at him when maybe his son was just sad and still processing the hurt he felt.
We don’t know what we don’t know, but if we let judgment and shame take over us, our thoughts can send us into a tailspin. Suppression of his feelings could lead to defensiveness and stonewalling.
My work with this man is for him to process his feelings about the separation and his new life with partial custody of his kids. What if his inability to process and express his own emotions is what led to the communication shutdown between him and his son? If the dad modelled suppressing his feelings, the son is likely to do the same.
It is never too late to turn it around however only if you are willing to do the work. What does this look like?
It is not the ‘processing of trauma’ (and yes, we all have trauma), but instead – how we manage our behaviours that stem from the trauma.
The trauma doesn’t go away.
But with the right techniques interwoven into our everyday lives, we start communicating from our hearts instead of our heads. We get to be us, unapologetically.
And guess what? People love us more because of it.
We get to have both.
So this man reaching out to a therapist was his first act of self-care, self-love and a statement of how much his son means to him. How he is not willing to compromise that relationship by blaming it on ‘teenagers’. When he asked his ex about how he behaves at her house, she replied ‘the same’. Well, to him, ‘the same’ is not good enough! He made phone calls to arrange therapy for the boy as well.
Bottom line, if he chooses to work with me I will take him through the three pillars:
2) An Individualized personal approach of how he could incorporate his idea of self-care and reflection might look like a.k.a what tools work best for him;
3) Continued practice and testing what it might feel and look like as he navigates life’s challenges coming from a place of love and being accountable towards himself with this new self-love and expression of feelings. And in this case man-to-man. How beautiful would that be?