So, I’ve recently discerned one of the things that continually upsets me in daily life, that causes me both anxiety and depression. It’s a major trigger for me, and that’s a shame, because it’s almost unavoidable in everyday life.
The really interesting thing about this trigger, for me, is that I have finally found something in my psyche that I can blame on my parents. Up until now, I had always thought they were innocent, that they played no role in the disaster that is my neurological landscape. But no, this one is on them.
You see, when I was a child, my parents modeled something for me that did not prepare me for my adult life. They were the two most important adults in my life. They were my role models. They were my yardsticks to gauge what adulthood meant. Now, don’t get me wrong — I didn’t always show respect for them. I didn’t always feel that they were role models. Frankly, I was a snot to them more often than not. And that brings us nicely to my point. Here’s what my parents modeled for me:
They modeled that adults acted different than children. They modeled that adults thought before speaking. Adults were considerate and polite. Adults didn’t always agree with one another, but they were able to deal with their disagreements in mature and appropriate ways. Adults didn’t engage in name-calling or gossip. Adults were able to control their emotions and their reactions. Sure, they’d get angry (usually at me). But they dealt with that anger appropriately, and in the rare moments when they didn’t, they followed up with apologies.
I wasn’t like that. I never thought before speaking. I was anything but considerate and polite. Sarcasm and mockery were a major part of my speech from the day I learned to talk. I dealt with anger by screaming, yelling, throwing stuff, and slamming doors. But hey, I was a kid.
And somehow I got it into my head that the way my parents acted was simply the way adults acted. And that one day, I would act the same.
Then I grew up.
And I learned that it’s hard to do that. I’ve come a long way from that little snot, but it’s not been easy. I’ve had to learn how to bite my tongue, how to rephrase things, how to just walk away and deal with things later. It’s one of the reasons I prefer email to real-time conversation: I can edit and revise over and over again before pressing “Send.” And I often do.
Being an adult, being an emotionally mature and socially appropriate human being, takes work. Acting like my parents takes work. And it’s worth it!
But. There’s still a childlike part of me inside that just expects people who are grown up to act like adults. To act kind and thoughtful, and to deal with their disagreements in a mature manner. And this part of me gets hurt over and over and over again. Because there are so many fully-grown people out there who simply don’t do that. Who act more like 7-year-old me than like my parents. And every time I see it it hurts.
And boy do I see it a lot. I should know better by now. I’ve been living in the adult world for well over twenty years now. I’ve pastored two congregations. But it still shocks me every time. I shouldn’t go on Facebook, because I see it all over the place there. And even four years later, I still find it so incredibly difficult to accept the way our President acts. It’s just not adult.
I am grateful to my parents for showing me how a mature person acts. And I am grateful that I have been able to follow their model, at least to a great extent, and have learned how to act that way myself, at least some of the time. I just wish I could let go of this triggered reaction whenever I see people acting differently. And I was just being flip when I said that I blame my parents for this. Not at all. They showed me a better way to live. Now I just need to learn how to live with people who don’t.