There will be people in our lives who ask us for nothing. Some people call this altruistic, which is defined as: unselfishly concerned for or devoted to the welfare of others (opposed to egoistic). How many people like this do we have in our own lives? Is it even possible for a person to be altruistic 100% of the time? I have seen people in my profession do this every day.
As a licensed professional therapist specializing in dual diagnosis, (anxiety and depression currently the most diagnosed mental illnesses) addiction (in any form) and grief; we attempt to actively listen to, companion, create a safe and trusting environment for, as well as, suggest options to resolve the above issues in themselves and their family.
I have been working with family members of “identified patients”. This means the family member who is currently struggling with anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol addiction or unacknowledged grief. Recently I met with a family with a 15-year-old daughter who was discovered to be drinking, taking prescription medications found in their home and cutting herself. The parents were angry and could not understand why their efforts to ‘correct’ her behaviors were not working.
By the time an adolescent is past the age of twelve or thirteen, parents will start to notice their teen is no longer listening to them. This should be no surprise to parents since when they were teenagers they did the same thing. When adolescents begin the stages of individuation and separation they reject anything that has been a family ‘rule’ or ‘guideline’ to find their own way. Teenagers are not listening as parents talk, incessantly, about what to do and not do to solve problems.
The teenagers ARE NOT LISTENING; they are WATCHING WHAT THE PARENTS ARE DOING. Watching for signs of hypocrisy, adolescents seek instant gratification on how they are feeling emotionally while battling, like never before, authority. With this in mind, therapists and counselors put their own lives on the back burner in order to invest in the family as a whole.
We as therapists ask for nothing. The hope is that each family member will come out of denial, blaming and secrecy to acknowledge that each one has a part to play in what is happening to him or her at the moment. The hope is that the family will, eventually, learn how to talk with one another and listen to each other. The hope is that they will return for the next therapy appointment.
Most people try to ‘fix’ problems that are happening to themselves and their family members on their own. This doesn’t work. The mind that tries to change itself by itself is in illusion. It all gets worse. The only evidence that shows a person is able to show signs of being altruistic is when that person is getting their own help. Often the therapist or counselor is someone who has gone through the life situations that their patients are suffering through. These wounded healers see the whole picture of possible outcomes and have the ability to watch the family do the work without rescuing them.
The 15 year old daughter of the family I met with was overwhelmed with what was happening in her home life, pressures with other girls in high school and self-hate which is impacting this generations of adolescents as never before.
Let’s talk about it.
Debra Whittam is the author of “I'm I Going to be Ok?" For any media inquiries or questions please contact: Contact@DebraWhittam.com