“You must let people live their own lives and learn their own lessons. If people are not receptive, let them go their own way — even into difficulty or dangerous circumstances.” ~taken from I-Ching #4

When we are faced with the destructive behavior of a loved one, we often are pulled by our own compassion to help them along the journey. It is important to examine our intentions and their impact, because all too often our assistance prevents the individual from taking ownership of the situation. When boundaries are enmeshed, it invokes dependency rather than confidence and perseverance.

 

A recent article featured in the magazine, The Atlantic, titled “How to land your kid in therapy” examines the impact of parents who out of their love for their children attempt to mitigate most difficult situations for their children. It can be challenging to determine what is appropriate especially with adolescents and their families, because of the adolescent’s developmental needs for individuation and the parent’s ongoing responsibility for their child’s wellbeing.

 

The drive behind this behavior is building self esteem and happiness, yet it protects children from feedback about their skills, character traits, and behaviors. This sets a precedent which undermines the child’s resiliency or strength to handle disappointment, misfortune and obstacles. Additionally, being protected from struggle sets up a false belief that we can control all outcomes of a situation. This perspective activates a drive for perfection which leaves individuals feeling anxious and depressed, whether or not they achieve their goal. If someone has not developed adequate skills to manage these feelings and experiences, the end result is often trying to soothe the internal pain through destructive behaviors and relationships.

 

When we identify and practice appropriate relationship roles and communication skills, we begin the journey of clearing our internal and external emotional boundaries. It takes time to become comfortable with this change, and it is not always welcomed from the ones who have become accustomed to our involvement. Yet if we can keep in mind that the end goal is to increase confidence and balance, it is imperative that we find the support necessary to take the leap of faith.

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