Let me describe a couple I was seeing, Ron, 45, a systems analyst and Andrea, 42, an emergency room nurse, are the parents of two teenage boys. Kenny, 16, the oldest, is having trouble in school. Andrea and Ron strongly disagree on how to deal with Kenny. The result is conflict between the couple and most likely, confusion for Kenny.
Andrea: Ron, you did it again!
Ron: What did I do? What are you talking about?
Andrea: I set the rules and you break them. How are these kids going to get a clear message if they don’t hear us speaking in one voice?
Ron: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Andrea: Cut the crap, Ron. You know about the lousy report card Kenny brought home last week. Dammit, Ron we agreed that he was going to sit and work his butt off for school. Remember the deal. No partying for two weeks. So why in hell did you let him go out with the guys last night? Do you have any idea what time he came in last night? No, of course not, you were sound asleep! And ya’ know what kills me? The first thing he said to me was, “Mom, don’t be mad. Dad said it was okay!”
Ron: Wait a second. The kid’s been working hard…
Andrea: Working hard! Why does he come home with a C average if he’s working so hard?
Ron: Since you told him that he’s grounded, he’s been working hard. He came to me and said “Dad, I need a break! All the guys are going to the basketball game. It’s the big game tonight.” You know that the team made the county championship. What was I going to tell the kid, he couldn’t go?!
Andrea: First of all, you should have discussed it with me. Don’t you realize he pulled a fast one on us.
Ron: How could I discuss this with you? You weren’t around!
Andrea: That’s exactly why he asked you! Because I wasn’t here! He’s a clever kid. He waited till I left so he could sweet-talk you.
Ron: That’s a lot of crap! You’re overreacting! The kid had an important basketball game. Don’t you remember what it was like when you were a kid?
Andrea: I didn’t come home with a report card with a C average. I worked hard.
Ron: So you were really a good student, he’s not such a great student. He’s more of a party guy.
Andrea: What party guy? It’s not as if he doesn’t have the potential! He’s just not living up to it. He’s always into basketball instead of in the books. How is he going to get into college? How’s he going to get ahead in life?
Ron: You’re always talking about “what is he going to do in the future?” What about right now? You know, this is the most important time in his life. If it were up to you, all he’d ever do is work. Is that what you want for him – to have no friends and no wonderful memories?
Andrea: When those friends are in good universities, he’ll be in some community college. He’s not going to get ahead like the rest of them. Then he’s going to look back and ask, “Why didn’t my parents push me more? Why didn’t they give me a good swift kick in the butt when I needed it, instead of giving in to my whining?” He’s going to come back and complain to us that we weren’t strict enough!
Ron: You run this house like it’s a boot camp! I don’t believe any kid would come back and say “I wish my parents were stricter with me!” He’s a good kid…
Andrea: Look Ron, it’s easy for you to talk. You’re just naturally brilliant. You sailed through school with almost no work. You got into one of the best universities in the country, you have a great career – so how could you understand! This kid needs discipline, he needs work. He’s not like you. He’s more like me. I had to work hard to do it. But he knows that you’re the macho father who likes to see his son party with the guys! We have to talk in one voice!
Ron: You want us to speak in one voice, which is your voice. It’s not my voice. You’re breaking his spirit.
Andrea: No, I’m not. I just want him to succeed in life and to have the opportunities that I never had. I know it’s hard for him to miss a basketball game but he’s got to get his priorities straight.
People devote a great deal of time and effort towards preventing mistakes. Thereby creating a side show, which diminishes their efficiency in dealing with the real problems at hand. Actually, making mistakes is unavoidable, and the mistake is less important in most cases, than what you do after you have made the mistake. If you are discouraged, demoralized and beset with guilt, you cannot face the situation. But if you are courageous, the predicament often leads to benefits, which would never have been possible without the original mistake. What is needed is not concern with what you have done wrong, but the determination to meet the demands of the moment. Making a mistake implies humiliation; it lowers your confidence, which changes self-respect into self-contempt. Self contempt is a way to manage your feelings of disrespect and self doubt. And as a result of your self contempt, you resort to looking at your peers to see what is acceptable.
There are voices all around you saying you should be better than you are. Winning is everything: “Your brother did better than that.” “Why don’t you have a job like his?” “Nobody else needs as much help as you do.” You may forget it is impossible to always please others, and you begin to think less of yourself when you fail to make everyone happy all the time. You may not even be able to see how you have made your life unmanageable. You just realize that reality is hopelessly flawed. You feel that you have let yourself down, no matter how hard you try to live up to your ideals This is the reason that you may have guilt, anger, anxiety or depression.