Thursday, March 6, 2008

How to escape parental haunting?

The solution to parental haunting is to figure out how your parents acted, figure out what you wanted them to do differently, and determine how, logically, you can fix it so that this pattern of behavior doesn’t control your dating behavior. Because you’re doing an inventory here, keeping a notebook in which you can jot down thoughts and impressions is a great idea. Make sure your notebook isn’t left around for other folks to read; it’s personal and just for you and your work.
  1. Start with a heading called “Mom and Dad,” leaving a page for each, and write down any thoughts that occur. On Mom’s page, you might write, “Neat-freak, warm laugh, takes care of the finances, whines,” and so on. On Dad’s page, you might write, “Rarely home, drinks too much, loves fishing, gives good hugs.” It’s a good idea to leave lots of space so you can let your mind roam.
  2. Now go to a new set of pages, again one each for Mom and Dad, and try to organize your thoughts into positive and negative. For example, on Mom’s page, you might put her warm laugh and the fact that she’s in charge of the finances on the positive side and “neat freak” on the negative side. Of course, if you’re being honest, warm laugh might be positive, but “doesn’t take me seriously” might be the downside of her sense of humor. See if you can use your grown-up self to look at things fairly.
  3. Once you’ve got a good list going, begin to relate the items on your list to dating behavior. For example, a sense of humor may be important, but so, too, may be someone who won’t laugh at you. Which is more important: having someone who listens a lot or someone who talks a lot? Make sure that the characteristics you want aren’t mutually exclusive. For instance, on one hand you want a man who is really successful; on the other, you want someone for whom you come first. Nope! Doesn’t happen that way.
When you understand which of your feelings about the opposite sex are directly related to Mom and Dad, you may be able, with your grown-up mind and paper and pencil, to free yourself of some of the knee-jerk responses that all of us have. Consider these examples:
  • If your Dad always beat you at checkers, you may go for the kill in games, taking all the fun out for both of you, or you may be unwilling to play at all. Finding a game at which you can best your Dad might free you, but at least understanding the cause and effect helps.
  • If your Mom was a worrywart, you may feel great anxiety before you leave the house. Your adult self can understand Mom’s fears and separate them from your own.

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