I was thinking about how I used to like the ‘likes’ on my social media pages.  Now, they don’t matter so much.  So I began to reflect on why that might be?  I know that since starting these pages and sharing my thoughts, I have also began to clarify my feelings and experiences. Consequently I am feeling stronger and happier than I ever was before.  Childhood experiences often shape us stealthily and it is much later when we ourselves become parents that we start thinking about these experiences.  Thinking back to my childhood, I had a very critical father.  Some of my work involves being critical- writing and to choosing employees, etc.  But was I transferring my critical habits at work to my home?

Now, being critical has its good points and bad ones.  Critical people are able to distinguish between important issues, make choices and reflect on things intelligently.  In the fields of arts and literature, being critical helps us to edit and curate our choices.  However, taken too far, being critical, can be very dangerous.  Especially where personal relations are concerned. If someone is very critical, then they are less likely to have close friends or family.  Critical people also have a need to be in control and to have a say in everything.  Criticism can become all consuming anger at every one and everything that is not going someone’s way.  Having an overtly critical parent can turn to us to wanting love and attention in other ways.  Wanting ‘likes’ might be way of saying I need love and attention because I am not getting it in other ways.

I breathed a sigh of relief when my younger son announced the other day that he was not going to go for a school prize that is given to ‘popular’ children- that is popular with teachers.  He said that he would be pleased to get it on his own terms (he is a polite and popular boy anyway).  He didn’t want to do things like writing poems or ‘thank you’ letters to teachers for no reason, staying on for extra lessons (not because they want to learn but to earn points), smiling all the time, etc.  He said he just wanted to be himself and if anyone thought he was good, then it was fine.  Here was a boy who used to be anxious to see how many ‘likes’ he was getting in the social media posts.  I realised that I had become happier, let go of the past and become less critical, so my son was a result of the change in my parenting.


Sharing some surprises

I found some surprising research and inspirations on commonly held assumptions about human relationships and thought I should share them with you. Some of these come from the University of Westminster research by Dr Viren Swami and some from my own, sometimes bitter, experiences. However, having made some of these mistakes, I realise they are so true.

1. Absence makes the heart grow fonder TRUE false!

Despite the internet and mobile communications, it has been proven that the most of our closest relationships happen with people in our immediate surroundings, people we keep in touch with and meet regularly.  Even in romance, the chance electrifying encounter won’t make it into a relationship, if both parties do not make physical contact and keep up that contact.

2. Opposites attract TRUE  false!

The idea that there is our better or even other half somewhere (the ‘one’) that make our existence complete is not true. In fact as Buddhism notes, we are the mirror and we attract people who are similar to us.  So if you are angry, you will attract an angry partner. So change yourself before you seek the ideal partner.

3. We choose partners who remind us of our parents NEITHER True nor false

Choice of partner is a complex issue.  Yes, we may be attracted to someone who reminds us of a parent but whether we stick with them is dependent upon point 2.  Appearance is only a small part of what the relationship is.

4. Its okay to idolise a person that you love TRUE false

Idolising someone actually dehumanises and objectifies them.  The person you have idolised becomes part of that lie and then if they make a mistake or hurt us, we are so shaken that our whole world collapses.  We must remember we are all human and we all make mistakes- so do remember to forgive!

5. People cannot change TRUE false

People change, they grow old with their experiences.  Sometimes they change for the better, sometimes for the worse.  Always be open to people changing and to yourself changing. If you don’t like that change and cannot be part of that, it is better to move on rather than expect people to conform to you.  Even relationships, sadly, have a lifespan. So go through life lightly, forgiving and moving towards love and happiness.

Parenting and compassion

We can have as many partners as we like but we will have only one set of parents.  After having become a parent, I realised that there is no training for parents- you are simply handed a baby and that is it!  No matter how much you read on parenting (and I should know as I read about 150 of them!) , your child will be unique and therefore no book can tell you how to handle him or her.  It will be tricky and you can go along, sometimes winning, sometimes losing but as long as your child is happy and healthy, then you are fine.  Parenting is a great responsibility- the responsibility to make a human being as as best as you can, with no prior training or knowledge! Can’t think of any other work that is so great and yet so under-valued.

Two days ago, I sat on the train, listening to three teenagers, complaining about their parents.  It was clear that they were returning from some holiday, tanned and tired.  They had fun and probably used some of their parents’ money to fund this holiday.  Yet some of the stuff one the girls said about her parents made me sad.  She seemed utterly ungrateful.  She probably did not realise how it made her sound, how it made her look bad- not her parents.

Part of growing up includes having compassion for others, including our parents.  If our parents made mistakes while bringing us up, we can be objective about it. Yet at the same time, we can keep in mind that they were subject to the emotions, mistakes and physical tiredness that parenting brings. We can identify the things in us that may be similar to our parents.  Even if we don’t have any outer signs that we share some common features, we must remember that we are half of each parent.  In my family, no one looks like each other.  On the emotional side, my father suffers from depression and used to beat me and my sisters.  I hated him for that.  Now that he is a weak invalid, slowly counting his days, I remember that I am half of him.  Although I am a happy optimistic person, I know that I could be like him because I share his genes.  Something could turn in my life to make me depressed because the latent effect is already inside my cells.  I feel compassion for him, although I remember my childhood clearly.  After having overcome my habit of hoarding, for instance, I am very compassionate towards my mother who still hoards.  This habit comes from her very deprived childhood and I feel compassion for her.  If I did not, then I would still be a child.  So compassion is not only a great healer but also helps you to grow up!