I have an odd relationship with my dad. I complain to him, and I share with him things I am not happy with in my life, which I’m sure most people do with their parents. I do that because he’s always been very good at understanding why I feel the way I do. He normally does a good job of getting underneath an issue and explaining why I feel upset or betrayed or let down or disengaged or however it is I feel when I talk to him.
This pattern has two major issues: he gets a slanted view of my life and everything in it, and he advises me according to this slanted view of my life. I share with him girl issues, and as a result he things that the girls in my life are bad people (or, at the least, not the right people for me). I shared with my dad anxiety about things I do; I did this a lot in Thailand. Because I complained about Thailand to my dad, he advised that I leave.
When I try to correct my dad and explain that everything is not as bad as I’m making out—“No no no, it’s not as bad as all that”—he always gives me this smile that says “you’re backtracking so that I don’t tell you to do the hard thing”. Because the hard thing is always to terminate the circumstances that are “as bad as all that”: stop talking to that friend, leave that country, don’t date that girl etc.
But when I don’t correct my dad, my dad allows me to do something much worse: revel in it. If I complain about a thing to my dad he will understand, relate and justify the way I feel. It’s a lot harder to fix or get over a problem when you feel justified feeling the way you do. It’s difficult to notice this is happening. It sounds like my dad is giving me comfort and support, but he is actually nurturing the negative emotions and allowing them to manifest. I revel in my dad’s support and I begin to believe that everything really is as bad as I have led my dad to believe it is. Then I feel even worse about the situation, because I forget all the good bits.
I told my dad recently that I thought I was depressed. It was refreshing not to hear the ‘you’ve got so much going for you, just cheer up’ speech, but it wasn’t helpful to then hear my dad rattle off all the reasons depression is actually a justified thing for me to have. My dad had two options, and although he doesn’t realise it, the option he chose was the nurturing depression option.
“Well, the human mind benefits a lot from sex, and you haven’t had that for a while—which is your own fault, really. You should have kicked your girlfriend into touch ages ago and found a nice Thai girl. I bet you regret not taking a Thai girl out, eh? And what did you turn that down for? A girl who broke up with you as soon as you were back in the country. Pity. You got stuck in a bit of a rut out in Thailand too, I don’t think you’ve properly had fun for a long tim. Not only that, but now you’re back in this country and it’s dark and miserable and cold. High suicide risk round this time of year*. Most of your friends don’t live round here anymore, and most of the people who are still here are sorry little ne’er-do-wells. I’d tell you to move away too, but there aren’t really any jobs anywhere.”
Ah yes, I feel so much better… if you don’t mind I’m just going to fix myself a drink… of bleach. I’ll find my mortality at the bottom of one of these bottles, I’m sure.
*I was aware of that.
I kind of wish my dad would stop saying “Thai girls”. I know he means 17 and over, but there were so many seedy paedophile-types out there that I do not understand it the way he means it! But I kind of wish he could give me a “you’ve got so much going for you” speech:
“You’re not dead. And as long as you’re not dead you’ve got some amazing opportunities ahead of you. You are a lot more than not dead, you’re youthful. The chances to do something exciting abound! There’s not a lot of work here, but that’s an excuse to travel. Work somewhere exciting and adventurous! My opportunities hadn’t come to me by the time I was your age. You can do something amazing with your life.”
Yeah, that. I want my dad to say that to me.