In a series of articles in the New York Times, “Poisoned Web,” Jan Hoffman details a sexting case gone viral in Lacey, Washington.  What can you do for your son or daughter so they don’t get sucked into the black hole of a sexting catastrophe that could ruin their whole lives?

In this particular case, a middle-school girl sent a full-frontal nude photo of herself, including her face, to her new middle-school boyfriend.  He forwarded the picture to a second middle-school girl he thought was a friend of the first one.  The second girl, an ex-friend with a grudge, forwarded the picture to the long list of contacts on her phone with the caption, “Ho Alert!  If you think this girl is a whore, then text this to all your friends.”  The photo rapidly went viral.

A lot of the analysis about the situation is nothing new:

  • Why do girls send nude photos of themselves to boyfriends they have or hope to have?  The same reasons girls always have.
  • Why do guys prize and show these pictures as evidence of what studs they are?  The same reasons guys always have.
  • Why do friends of the guys or mean girls forward the pictures?  The same reasons that names used to get written on bathroom or phone booth walls.  The same reasons that girls have always cut down their competition and enemies.  Bullies, bullying, harassment and abusive behavior have always been with us.
  • Who or what is to blame?  The same culprits get vilified: thoughtless, foolish boys and girls, teenagers, school officials, society, double-standards and technology.

Does technology make sexting worse?  Yes, of course.  Technology makes it seductively easy to forward pictures and comments.  Also, technology makes the information global and permanent.  Kids can’t move to another school or even another city in order to get away from the consequences of what they and others did.

In the past, many reputations and lives were ruined by foolish moments.  Kids and adults have always been able to exercise righteous or mean or vicious inclinations, but it’s so much easier now.

What are the consequences to those caught up in sexting?  The girl who sends her picture may be the subject of vicious attacks all her life.  Her inner strength, courage, determination, perseverance and resilience will be tested.  She may feel helpless and that her situation is hopeless.  She may go down the path to being a victim for life.  Her self-confidence and self-esteem may be destroyed.  Anxiety, stress, guilt, negativity and self-mutilation may be stimulated.  She can move toward isolation, depression and suicide.

The boy, the second girl and everyone else who forwards the picture have to face their own stupidity or meanness.  And they may have to face their role in a suicide.  An act of a moment can destroy a life.  Also, they may have to face prison.  We hope this will help them do better the rest of their lives.  Humans have always learned some lessons the hard way.

Do today’s kids face overwhelming pressure?  Many people make excuses for the foolish or nasty kids; as if the external pressures are overwhelming.  For example, the article quotes, “'You can’t expect teenagers not to do something they see happening all around them,’ said Susannah Stern, an associate professor at the University of San Diego who writes about adolescence and technology.”  This line of thought focuses on reducing all pressure and temptation.

But pressure was just as great throughout history as it is now – depending on the particular time in each society.

What’s the solution?

These steps will decrease the number of kids involved in sexting.  But we’ll never stop 100 percent of kids’ foolish or mean or vicious actions.  But that can’t be our intention.  Our goal is to educate kids whose awareness of the potential consequences of their actions will awaken in them the ability to do better.

Our goal can’t be to educate or convert psychopaths or people who want to make a living off child pornography.  Educational approaches aren’t effective with these people.

I do expect most kids to be able to learn to be stronger, to develop better character and to be able to resist the temptations of our popular culture.  There’s nothing new in the temptations and pressure the kids face.  The only new thing is the ease and permanence that technology offers.  I focus not on making society easy and safe, but on developing individual values, character, heart and spirit.

Remember, all tactics depend on the situation – the people and the circumstances.  So we must design plans that are appropriate to preventing our individual children from sending pictures or forwarding them, and to minimizing the disaster if they act foolishly.

If your children are the targets of cyberbullies or sexting, you need to take charge.  With expert coaching and consulting, we can become strong and skilled enough to overcome the effects of seeming to have your child’s life ruined by a foolish act in middle-school.

How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” have many examples of children and adults commanding themselves and then stopping bullies.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

Sometimes toxic parents think they have us over a barrel even after we’ve grown up, gotten physically and financially independent, and started our own family.  They count on our loyalty to some ideal of “family” no matter how badly they treated and still treat us.  They count on our self-bullying and guilt.  They count on us still trying to jump through their hoops to win their love and approval...  They count on our fear that they’ll manipulate the rest of the family into thinking we’re ungrateful and bad.  And they often count on our enduring the verbal and emotional abuse so we can inherit our share of their fortune. Of course, I’m talking about those toxic parents who are still blaming everything on us and abusing us because “It’s your fault” or “You are selfish, ungrateful and don’t deserve any better” or “It’s your duty to do what they want in their old age.”  They’re the toxic parents who know our every weakness and sensitivity, and still poke them hard when they want too; still find fault with every little thing we do; still compare us unfavorably to someone else or to their standards; still criticize, belittle and harass us and our spouse and our children in public or they’re the sneaky ones who criticize, demean and denigrate us in private but pretend they love us in public so everyone thinks they’re wonderful, loving parents.

Of course, we’ve tried everything we can think of, but the negativity, harassment, criticism, blame, shame, bullying and abuse haven’t stopped.  We’ve tried to do exactly what they want, but it’s never enough.  We’ve apologized and pleaded with them to stop, but that just makes them act nastier.  We’ve gotten angry and threatened not to see them, but they broke down in such tears of distress we felt guilty or they blamed on us even more or they acted nice for a few minutes but, when we relaxed, they attacked us more about something different they didn’t like.

So what can we do now?

  1. For the sake of peace and quiet in the whole family, we could keep trying to endure the abuse while begging them to stop.  After all, we never know; if we only kept trying, if we only did enough, they might change.  Also, they might leave us in the will.  And it’d be our fault if we quit too soon.  Many people fly low until they have children and see their toxic parents either criticizing and emotionally abusing their children or belittling and criticizing them while being sweet to the grandchildren.
  2. We might continue objecting and arguing; enduring our frustration and anger.  Usually this tactic repeats endlessly and often spirals out of control.  Relentlessly toxic parents won’t admit they’re wrong and give up.  Eventually they’ll escalate and cut us out of the will.
  3. We might try withdrawing for a while; not seeing them, telling them we won’t return emails and calls, and then carrying through.  People usually shift from the first two tactics to this one when they see the effect of their toxic parents on their own children.  This tactic sometimes convinces nasty, mean, bullying parents that they’d better change their ways or they’ll lose contact with their grandchildren.  But the relentlessly toxic parents don’t care.  They’re sure they’re fine and they’re sure they’ll win if they push hard enough, like they’ve always won in the past.  So they don’t change and we go back to arguing or we give up or we finally respond more firmly.
  4. The next step is to withdraw for a long time, maybe forever – no contact.  It’s sad but we have to protect the family we’re creating from our own predatory parents.  It’s usually both scary and very exciting.  Most people, despite any guilt they feel, also feel a huge surge of relief, as if a giant weight or a fire-breathing dragon has been removed from their shoulders.  Our spouse and children may celebrate.  Get out of town, go on a vacation, turn the phones and email off.

What to expect and how to respond?

  1. They’ll attack when we withdraw.  Expect them to make angry calls and send hostile emails.  Save these on an external drive or a cheap recorder before deleting them.  They want to engage us, so do not engage endlessly and fruitlessly; no return calls or emails, no hateful or vindictive responses.  We’ve only gotten to this point because they haven’t changed after many approaches and warnings.  We might have to change our phone numbers to unlisted ones and change our email addresses.
  2. They’ll rally the extended family.  Prepare by making cue cards of what to say; no excuses or justifications.  Just tell the family what you said and did, and what you plan.  Ask them not to intervene.  Tell them we’d like to see them but only if our toxic parents are not present.  We’re sorry they’re caught in the middle but that’s life.  They do have to choose who to believe and what behavior to support.  Be prepared to withdraw from anyone who attacks or interferes.
  3. They’ll disinherit us.  When they can’t manipulate us through love, blame, shame and guilt, they’ll try greed.  If we don’t do what our toxic parents want right now, they’ll cut us out of the will.  Don’t be a slave to greed; it’s a deadly sin.  If we want to have a bully-free family life, we’ll have to make it on our own.  The real benefit is not merely ending the brutality, it’s the strength of character and the skills we gain when we make decisions for ourselves and chart our own course in the world.  We’ll end the negativity, stress, anxiety and depression usually caused by toxic parents.  We’ll develop the strength, courage, determination, perseverance and resilience we all need to make wonderful lives.  We’ll be able to express our passion and joy without cringing, waiting for the next blow to fall.
  4. We’ll have an empty space in our lives.  Even more than the empty physical space we’ll now have at the times when we used to get together with our toxic parents, we’ll have a huge mental and emotional space.  How many hours have we wasted thinking about our parents, worrying about the next episode, dreading what might happen next, agonizing over what to do.  We don’t have to do that any more.  Of course, being weaned from an old habit takes a little time.  We must be gentle with ourselves.  Focus on the freedom we now have.  Now we can think about the things we want to think about; not about pain and suffering, not about past failures.  Now we have space to bring into our lives people who will be part of the tribe of our heart and spirit.
  5. Our children will wonder why.  Tell the kids in a way that’s age appropriate.  Are we protecting them from the verbal abuse of their toxic grandparents or from lies that paint us as bad people?  They’ll want to know what’s going to stay the same.  Will they have fun, celebrate holidays, get presents, have extended family?

The most important lessons we offer our children are not through books and lectures.  Those are important, but the most important ones are the ones they see in our behavior when we’re models of behavior we want them to learn.

Be a model for them of someone who protects himself and them from anyone who would target them, even someone who’s close by blood.  Being close by behavior counts more than blood.  Show them not to be victimized even by blood relations.

Show them to how to be the hero of their lives.

With expert coaching and consulting, we can look at individual situations and plan tactics that are appropriate to us and to the situation.  We can overcome the voices of our fears and self-bullying.  We can overcome childhood rules to endure whatever bullying and abuse our toxic parents dish out simply because they’re our parents.  We can become strong and skilled enough to stop bullies in their tracks – even if those bullies are blood relatives. “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” has many examples of children and adults getting over their early training and freeing themselves from toxic relationships.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

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AuthorBen Leichtling
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My last post focused on children, teenagers and adults facing moments of choice when they’re targets of or bystanders-witnesses to harassment, bullying and abuse.  People who repeatedly turn away from that call to step up usually develop terrible long-term consequences including increased stress, insecurity, discouragement and depression; increased blame, shame, guilt and negative self-talk; and loss of self-confidence and self-esteem. The valor of Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger focuses us on a different but just as critical a set of choices our kids and teens face as they grow up.

In a Wall Street Journal article, Jeffrey Zaslow, co-author, with Captain Sullenberger, of his book, "Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters," Captain Sullenberger faced a number of difficult situations when he was growing up.  He responded to these moments with powerful choices that led him to be prepared to act effectively in the moment when both engines of his Airbus A320 on US Airways flight 1549 went out and he ditched the plane safely in the Hudson River.

Sullenberger’s choices did not begin when danger was thrust on him; they began when he prepared himself for the dangers of real-life, long before he developed his flying skills.

His youthful choices led him to develop the character and skill he needed when a moment of truth was thrust upon him and lives were at stake.  Some of the choices he made long before he captained that flight:

  1. Act when someone is helpless in the face of danger.  For example, when he was 13 he watched the news about Kitty Genovese, a New York woman who was stabbed to death while her neighbors ignored her screams and didn’t even act to call the police.  Sullenberger decided then “that if I was ever in a situation where someone such as Kitty Genovese needed my help, I would choose to act.  No one in danger would be abandoned.  As they’d say in the Navy: ‘Not on my watch.’”
  2. Work hard to protect people’s lives; don’t be a bystander.  Sully says that after his “father killed himself in 1995, ‘His death had an effect on how I view the world.  I am willing to work hard to protect people’s lives, not to be a bystander, in part because I couldn’t save my father.’”
  3. Accept what’s happening and work to better the situation.  After their struggles with [his wife’s] infertility and the arduous journey of trying to become adoptive parents, Sully says, “The challenges [we] faced made me better able to accept the cards I’ve been dealt.”
  4. Be prepared.  Study how things can go wrong and plan ahead to overcome potential problems.  In order to see what went wrong and to figure out what to do better, he examined many plane wrecks in person and read many transcripts of cockpit vice recorders taken just before crashes.  The lessons he chose to learn: “Be vigilant and alert.”  He saw that Charles Lindbergh’s “success was due almost entirely to preparation, not luck.”
  5. Develop the right mindset.  He says, "In so many areas of life, you need to be a long-term optimist but a short-term realist… You have to know what you know and don't know, and what your airplane can and can't do in every situation."
  6. Sacrifice lower priority goals for more important ones.  "By attempting a water landing," he says, "I would sacrifice the 'airplane goal'—trying not to destroy an aircraft valued at $60 million—for the goal of saving lives."
  7. Compartmentalize.  Focus on the immediate task; don’t be distracted by extraneous thoughts.  “Sully says his family did not come into his head. ‘That was for the best. It was vital that I be focused; that I allow myself no distractions. My consciousness existed solely to control the flight path.’”

Captain Sullenberger is justly praised for what he did as an adult on the day he saved 155 lives.  And I see a hero in the 13 year-old boy who started and continued to make wonderful choices in response to the difficult situations he faced; preparing himself for the moment when the duty to respond was thrust on him 40 years later.

We never know how many lives will be on the line when our call to action comes; we must develop the will and also the skill so that we can respond effectively.  We must also prepare our children to recognize and respond successfully when their calls to higher duty come.  Facing bullies or witnessing bullying is only one of those situations.

A lot of feedback about stopping bullying by toxic parents focused on what children owe those abusive parents.  After all, even though they harassed, abused and tormented their children, those parents still fed, clothed and housed them. Many of those parents now claim that a debt is owed them.  No matter how bad they were and still are, they claim their children owe them care, sympathy and loyalty.  And usually willingness to be continually abused.

I disagree.

To illustrate my point of view, here’s a story told to me repeatedly by my father.  He said it was a traditional story.  I call it “The Mother and the Three Baby Birds.”  It appeared in a wonderful collection of stories annotated Steve Andreas, published by Real People Press, “Is there life after birth?”

~~~~~~~~~~~ At the time of the great flood, when the storm had just begun and the earth was beginning to be covered with water, a mother bird saw the danger.  She realized that her three babies were no longer safe in their nest at the top of a high tree.  Even if she remained with them, they would be swept away and drowned.  So she picked up the first baby and started to fly through the storm, across the rising water, seeking a new place that would be high enough, so she might save at least one of her children.

As she flew, she spoke to the first baby, asking, “When I am very old and I can no longer take care of myself, will you dedicate your whole life to taking care of me, just as I am using all my energy and strength to take care of you now?”

And the first baby turned to her and said, “No.  When your day has passed, when you can no longer take care of yourself, then I will not dedicate my whole life to taking care of you.  I will dedicate all my energy and strength to taking care of myself.”

The mother bird said, “No!  This is not the baby to save.”  And so she let go of the first baby and it fell, helplessly flailing its tiny wings, down into the raging waves.

Tired and wet, the mother bird turned and flew back to the nest, which she hoped would still be above the rising waters.

She found the nest and picked up the second baby bird.  Weary and wet, she struggled to fly higher, through the beating rain, against the driving wind.  Seeking a new place that would be high enough, so she might save at least one of her children.

And as she struggled, she spoke to the second baby, asking, “When I am very old and I can no longer take care of myself, will you dedicate your whole life to taking care of me, just as I am using all my energy and strength to take care of you now?”

And the second baby turned to her and said, “Yes.  When you have used all your energy and strength, when you are too exhausted to go further, I will dedicate my whole life to taking care of you.”

And the mother bird said, “No!  This also is not the baby to save.”  And so she let go of the second baby and it fell, helplessly flailing its tiny wings, down into the raging waves.

Almost exhausted now, bedraggled, beaten by the driving rain and raging wind, summoning all her remaining strength, the mother bird turned and flew back to the nest, which she hoped would still be above the rising waters.

She found the nest and, just as the raging waves washed it away, she picked up the third baby bird.  With barely enough strength to rise above the foam and spray, to move forward against the driving wind, she struggled bravely on.  Desperately seeking a new place that would be high enough, so she might save at least one of her children.

And as she struggled, with her voice and body failing, she spoke to the third baby, asking, “When I am very old and I can no longer take care of myself, will you dedicate your whole life to taking care of me, just as I am using all my energy and strength to take care of you now?”

And the third baby turned to her and said, “No.  When you have used all your energy and strength, when you are too exhausted to go further, I will not dedicate my whole life to taking care of you.  But instead, I will dedicate all my strength and energy to taking care of my children, just as you are taking care of me now.”

And the mother bird said, “Yes!  This is the baby to save.”  And with renewed hope and renewed strength, she steadily flew higher and faster and further.  Despite the beating rain, despite the driving wind, despite the raging waves.  She flew steadily.  And she did find a new place that was high enough to save the child who must be saved.

~~~~~~~~~~

Even though the mother bird was not a bully, the same lessons apply.  Don’t let a sense of obligation and duty lead you to allow yourself to be harassed and brutalized by toxic parents; don’t be stopped if they say you shouldn’t be better than they are; don’t seek approval from bullies; don’t listen when they say that you owe them whatever they want; don’t be depressed by their negativity; don’t let them destroy your self esteem; and don’t devote your life only to your own selfish pleasures.

Instead, take care of yourself so you can devote yourself to something greater and longer-lasting.  Devote yourself to the children of your body, heart, mind and spirit.  That’s what you owe your ancestors, no matter what other claims they may press on you.

What’s important are the responsibilities you take up joyously, not the onerous ones claimed by toxic parents.

The success of Mahatma Gandhi and non-violent protest or non-violent resistance is often cited as absolute proof that such non-violent methods can defeat oppression and stop bullies.  That idea is often linked to the assertions that the world was a simpler place back when people came together face to face, a small group of committed people can change the world and there’s nothing we can’t accomplish. As much as I almost always try non-violent techniques first, I disagree strongly.  You’re better off thinking of non-violent protest as a method, a strategy or a tactic; not as a philosophy.

Let’s examine non-violent protest as if its truth as a philosophy can be tested against history.

Gandhi-ji was successful against the British and I wouldn’t argue that any other tactic he could have employed would have succeeded.  But his success only proves that in that particular circumstance, lead by that unique individual spirit, the tactic of non-violent protest was successful in getting the British to leave India.  Do you think that non-violent resistance would have been effective in India in 1857?  Or that it would help the Indian people now against Pakistan (or vice versa) or against the Muslim terrorists who recent launched their attacks in Mumbai?

I remember Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement.   I was actually in Chicago when he led the march and rally.  Do you think he would have succeeded in leading a march in Chicago in 1920 or New York in the 1830’s (read about the mass atrocities and killings during the riots there)?  Do you think the movement would have succeeded integrating schools in the South without the Federal troops willing to shoot?

Gandhi and Dr. King were in the right places at the right times for the methods they chose.  Would either have even gotten obituaries in the newspapers if they tried non-violent protest in Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Bosnia, Rwanda or Darfur, or against the Ayatollah or Sadam Hussein, just to name a few?

The wisdom and lessons of history are clear, whether we like them or not.  They’re found in the great literature of the world, as well as in the facts we know:

  • The world was never a simpler place.  Try living your life on a self-sufficient farm, especially when the locusts or drought or flood or fire comes.  Or when a conquering horde comes over the hill to kill all the men and take the women and children into slavery.  That was dealing with problems face to face.  Remember in the Iliad what happened to mighty Hector’s wife and son.  No unemployment insurance, retirement funds or welfare.
  • A small group of people can change the world.  Usually that’s what has happened, whether they start a Renaissance or a dictatorship or they’re called the Founding Fathers or Mothers.
  • Although there are many things we’ve accomplished through science and technology in the physical, material world, there are many things we can’t accomplish in the organic, living world.  We will never have world peace.  We will never have a global society that encourages and makes possible everyone’s individual freedom.  Power is a reality of human nature, not freedom (as much as we Americans value it).  Protecting me and mine against you and yours, or people grabbing what they want is a reality of human nature.
  • In response to a question about peaceful, non-violent protest being effective when facing Chinese soldiers with machine guns, the Dali Lama said, about two years ago, that had we stood there and prayed and chanted and reasoned, they simply would have shot us all.  Similarly, the Quakers in Pennsylvania were barred from holding office because their peaceful methods did not protect the colonists they served from Indian attacks.
  • History shows that, for the most part, those who succeed practicing non-violence live in caves, deserts, misty mountains or monasteries.  Usually, they live on practically nothing or are supported and taken care of by people who brave the world in which violence is a probability.  For example, Gandhi could live poor and politically active because, in part, he was supported by the efforts and money of one of the richest women in India.

To think that we can have sustainable world peace is to indulge in childhood, magical thinking – very 60’s and 70’s.

So what can we do?  Keep working at it; be strong, skillful and resilient in your efforts; think strategically, being right isn’t enough.

Start with your personal world.  Deal effectively and individually with the bullies you find, whether they be face to face or cyberbullies, bullies at work, home or school.  Help make laws against those behaviors, but if you want society or the government to actively guarantee security, you will create Big Brother and you won’t like the consequences.

Think of non-violent protest and reasoning as initial tactics to employ.  Sometimes they’ll be effective.  Bullies will show you if non-violent protest enough to stop them.  But if non-violent resistance doesn’t stop a bully, you have to be more clever and firm.  History actually shows that usually the best way to prepare for peace is to be strong enough to wage war successfully, despite the seductively catchy bumper sticker to the contrary.  Remember, no method succeeds everywhere and every when.

Prepare yourself to be ecstatic and joyful in the world the way it is, whether you decide to change it or not.  That joy and ecstasy are signs of the saints.  As much as the world is full of all the awful things we can think of, it’s also full of beauty, grace, love and nobility.  Fill yourself with joy in the face of the full range of life.

If you can’t be happy until the world is totally peaceful and all the problems are solved, you’ll have a lousy life.  That would be a waste of your potential for wonder, awe and joy, as well as for effecting change … even knowing that change won’t last beyond your life span.

Obviously there are great parents.  And there are children who repeatedly wound their parents.  But let’s focus on parents who repeatedly wounded their children … and still continue to bully and control them even after the children have become adults. Whether that’s done consciously and intentionally, or the parents are righteous and oblivious to the effects they’re having, or they think that they’re preparing their children to be humble and moral or to face a hostile world, the pain is real and the effects can last for decades.

Before we review a typical case study and offer the keys to moving on and creating the life you want, let me ask, have you been wounded by your parents?

In general, boys are wounded just as much as girls, but let’s look at Irene.  She’s now a skilled and competent nurse, but getting there was a long struggle.  Her parents relentlessly belittled, denigrated and punished her.  They didn’t hit her often, but they forced her to do everything their way.  They knew best and were always right; she was always wrong.  They said that her character and personality was fundamentally flawed.  Despite everything they did for her benefit, they knew she’d never be a good or successful person.  She’d always be a loser.

In response to their hostile criticism, emotional blackmail and verbal abuse, Irene became insecure and shy.  Although she was very mature and competent in her professional life, when she faced her parents, she became a little girl again.  She was intimidated by their certainty and rules.  Facing these bullies, Irene became a self-bully; bullied by the old attitudes, beliefs, rules and critical voices she carried in her head.

Irene was like so many other wounded people in life-long therapy.  She was completely focused on her parents’ continuing bullying, on resisting them, on hating them, on finally pleasing them, on getting past them.  She gnawed on the bone of her parents endlessly.  She was depressed and sometimes suicidal.  She thought she needed repeated catharsis to keep functioning.

The relationship with her parents consumed her life.  Irene kept trying to convince them to give in to her and to approve of her so she could feel good.  She just wanted them to be fair and reasonable … and to like and appreciate her.  She thought she mustn’t ever create a safe distance from them even though they still bullied her.  The guilt would be overwhelming.

Let’s focus on the perspective that gave Irene back her life.  I think there are developmental transitions we all go through.  The first stage of growing up and leaving home is when we leave physically.  Most of us go to school, get jobs, get stuff (homes and cars), get spouses or partners, get children, get debts … get self-supporting.  We often move away so we can spread our wings without our parents’ eagle eyes on us.  Then we think we’ve become free and independent adults.  Externally, maybe.

We usually make this outer transition between the ages of 16-35.  When did you?

But that’s only the first transition.  There’s a second, necessary transition before we become truly unique, independent selves.  In this transition, we clean out the internal mental, emotional and spiritual homes we gave our parents.  We discard everything we took in when we were children.  And we take in what fits us now.  Some of the attitudes and ideas may be the same as our parents have, but much of it will be different.

In this transition, we get over our parents.  The present and the future we want to create become the focus of our world.  Our parents aren’t the focus any more.  They no longer fill up our world.  We move them off to the side or into the background, whether they like it or not.

Now we can take in attitudes and ideas as adults; adjusting them with our adult experience and wisdom.  Children take in ideas as black-or-white, all-or-none RULES, and apply those rules everywhere.  There’s no gray for them.  Adults know there’s gray in many areas.  We all did our best and it was good enough to keep us alive and get us to where we are now.  But we didn’t have the experience to judge with wisdom.  We misunderstood, misinterpreted and had very narrow visions.  We were kids.

This second transition is usually age and life-stage dependent.  For example, our careers reach a plateau, we can see the children leaving home, we become middle-aged, we notice the same, repeating life patterns and lessons, or we wonder if we’ll ever fulfill our heart’s desire.

Are you there yet?

When we’ve done this, we’re no longer controlled by our parents’ voices, rules, beliefs and attitudes.  We have our own view of life and what’s important for us and how we can get it.  We can create the life we’ve wanted, independent of whether they like it or not.  We may or may not reject them; we’re simply not controlled by them or by having to be like or different from them.  We make up our own minds.

When Irene saw her life’s movement with this perspective, she heaved a sigh of relief.  She wasn’t a loser or flawed sinner caught forever in an insoluble bind.  Her parents’ opinions of her faults and what she needed to do were merely their personal opinions, shaped by their upbringing.  Nothing more truthful or important than personal opinions.  She no longer put them on a pedestal.

She wasn’t helpless.  The situation wasn’t hopeless.  She was normal.  She just had to persevere in order to create a life that she could call her own.  And if her parents didn’t like it; so what?  They didn’t get to vote.  If they wanted to get close to her, they have to pass the tests of her 9 Circles of Trust.

Some people get this in a blinding flash when they’re relatively young.  For Irene, it took much longer.  The transition wasn’t easy for her but it was do-able.  She felt free and light, like a great burden had been lifted from her shoulders.  She was always stubborn.  Now she could use her stubbornness to persevere.  The light at the end of her tunnel was the life she’d always wanted to live.

She won’t let her parents wound her any more.  The big difference from decades ago was that now she was just as tall as they were.  She was an adult.  Keeping herself safe from them was more important than old rules that had led her to accept their abuse and control.  When she made her parents’ opinion unimportant and she turned to face the light at the end of her tunnel, she could feel her wounds healing, as wounds naturally do when no one is picking at the scabs.

Where are you with your parents?  Where are you with your own growing independence?