Totalitarian Daddy

Totalitarian Daddy

“After reading your article on Negative People, I have realized how many negative people I actually have in my life. So, as part of striving to be my own person and expunge myself from these beings, it’s come to my attention that the main negative people that are in my life are my parents, or more specifically, my father. As I’m still 18 and living at home, are there any suggestions you have as to how to deal with his mind-numbing totalitarian ruling and break out from the impact he is having on my life?”

Before I get into answering your question, let me tell you a few things I’ve learned about parents in my mammoth (ha!) 24 years on earth.

They are people first & parents second.
All parents make mistakes — that’s how they learn.
They are trying to do better than their parents did (& we’ve all heard stories about how awful their parents could be).
Usually, they behave the way they do because they love us & are trying to protect us.

While there are some exceptions — such as in the case of parents who are abusive — most parents are just trying to raise their children as best they can. I really take my hat off to parents all around the world, because raising a child is an enormous, intimidating, challenging & ultimately, pretty thankless job.

Think about it. You have your life, & it’s going fairly well. Then, all of a sudden, this tiny thing appears, & you have to guide it through life. Teach her to read. Teach her table manners. Teach her to respect herself. Make sure she doesn’t get hit by a car. All of these things. It is a terrifying responsibility.

Now, this doesn’t excuse the behaviour of some parents, but for most of us — well, it makes the situation a little more clear.

Okay, back to your question. Of course, the most obvious solution is to leave home, which is definitely the best option. When you leave home & start to live alone, that distance from your parents, over time, allows you to realise what good people they actually are. Having that space is really important, & it will completely change the relationship you have with your parents, I promise you that much. Not to mention, your independence from them will (hopefully) prove to them that you’re not a child anymore.

You will have your own place. It may not be as nice as the home you share with your parents, but it will be yours alone, & for that reason, you will love it. You can play music loudly until 4 in the morning, eat ice-cream for dinner, leave your dirty clothes all over the place & never hang up another towel. If your parents want to visit, you can negotiate a time that works for both of you. You’ll get a job & spend your money in a wildly irreponsible manner — probably on a really expensive brooch or pair of shoes. You will learn a lot about yourself, & your adventures as an adult will begin.

The thing with moving away — which is a very simple resolution — is that there is a risk that your father will still try to run your life. If you don’t know how to stop him from controlling you, it will continue forever, regardless of where you live. So many people are still beholden to their parents, & not even necessarily in the way you would think. Some people are still desperate for their parents approval, & will pursue careers that they think will make their parents happy. Other people will do everything in their power to be the absolute opposite of their mother — which of course means that Mummy is still in charge, & you are still living your life around her example.

I remember reading something once which said you can call yourself an adult when you sincerely do not care what your parents think. Not in a teenage rebellion kind of way, but in a way where their opinions do not affect you in any way. You don’t feel the need to impress or them or rebel against them — you are happy with yourself & do what pleases you.

It’s a complicated issue. I really think the best way to deal with your totalitarian father is to work on yourself, & you can do this whether you live under his roof or not. I guess the crux of it is that we can’t change people, but we can change our reactions to people. Your father has been treating you this way for 18 years. Why would he stop now? This is the way he has learned to relate to you, & that will continue until you do something about it.

Use EFT to get rid of the anger
Hating your father doesn’t help anyone. It will make you miserable & bitter — it doesn’t improve your life in any way. Use EFT to remove any negative emotions you have towards him. You might find that this completely changes the way he relates to you (stranger things have happened), but if not, at least you will be happy & not harbouring a grudge. Being angry at anyone is really just allowing them control of your life. Don’t buy into it!

Work on your self-esteem
Read my article How To Be Confident for ideas on how to do this. Above all, remember that you’re a good person. One thing I’ve learned recently is that the happier & more content you are with yourself, the less anyone else can affect you. Do you think the Dalai Lama has a cry anyone says he’s an insert-insult-here? I don’t. People who love themselves are totally bulletproof when it comes to verbal sparring.

Take control of your own life
You need to prove that you are in charge of your own life. If you’re on the phone to your father & he is rude to you or says something which upsets you, tell him as much. If he apologises, fine. If he doesn’t, hang up the phone. Similarly, in person, if he is trying to tell you what to do, don’t take it. Walk away or tell him to look after his own life. Some people allow their parents to get away with murder, just because they’re related to one another. Don’t be one of those people — don’t allow yourself to be a doormat. If someone makes you feel bad about yourself, stop associating with them. The same rule applies from lovers to grandparents.

Learn new ways to react
If your father is yelling at you, don’t yell back. It will only get worse from there. Stand there & speak reasonably to him. He will probably stop yelling. Standing up to people is a learning process. There is a fine line between being passive & being calm, just like there is a fine line between being assertive & being aggressive. Practice makes perfect. The most important thing to remember about this is that you set the tone. If someone else is having a tantrum, you be the adult, you take control. Make them come up to your level. This will drastically alter the way you relate to one another.

Believe in yourself
Regardless of what your father may say to you, it’s what you believe about yourself that matters. He is allowed to have a different opinion, but stick to your guns. Let’s face it, his life is almost over while yours is just beginning — & you are in charge of yourself. The most important thing is that you make yourself happy & don’t let his limiting beliefs affect your quality of life. Sometimes when parents try to dissuade us from doing things, they’re not trying to be a wet blanket — they’re trying to protect us from failure or hardship or heartbreak. This can be hard to see in the heat of the moment, but it usually comes from a good place. Be your own cheerleader.

Entertain the wild notion that you might be wrong
I know it sounds crazy, but it might be worth considering whether you are, at times, being unreasonable. I know that when I lived at home, I expected money on demand, food on demand, lots of time to myself (mostly to play on the internet, gee, how times have changed) & to be able to sleep for extended periods. I would get angsty over being asked to set the table, or empty the dishwasher, or pull the curtains. Looking back, I know that I was just being a total pain in the ass, & have since apologised to my parents. Anyway, my point is, hormones make you mental & parents do too, so acting like a turd is pretty much par for the course. Try to be as objective about it as you can, & try to be nice to your parents, too.

Remember that your father is human
I think that a lot of us, as children, think that just because our parents are adults, that means they have things all figured out. Newsflash: They don’t. They are growing & learning & changing just like we are. Many of them are still working out who they are at age 45. Parents have their own problems & challenges, things that can be hard for somewhat self-involved teenagers to comprehend. Have a little compassion, if you can!

Honestly, though, if you’re living under his roof, unfortunately, he makes the rules. Don’t be surprised if he says you have to move out after you start to grapple with the remote control of your own life. Think of it as a blessing — in a year’s time, you will probably call him to say thank you.

Extra For Experts:
How can I free myself of my parents’ control? from Gosh, Cary Tennis is good.
I’m OK, You’re My Parents: How to Overcome Guilt, Let Go of Anger, & Create a Relationship That Works by Dale Atkins.
My parents control me! from Tiscali.