Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Could I Have Been Wrong All Along?

Will wonders ever cease? Recent events have necessitated something quite unpleasant: my contemplating the notion that I could - yes, actually could - be wrong about something! Not an easy thing for an arrogant, smug-mug like myself to swallow.

In truth, the question, "Could I have been wrong all along?" begs another maybe-not-so-simple question, that being: "About what, specifically?" In all candor, I am fully prepared to accede in some respects, but defend in others.

It seems I have not fully appreciated a few crude realities about certain aspects of life. One of them being that most people in their seventies and eighties come from a generation that persistently resorts to the practice of internalizing that which today's more enlightened perspective strongly suggests they not internalize - things like mental illness, abuse, the far-reaching effects of alcoholism, and sordid, emotional family dynamics to name just a few.

The internalizing of these phenomena predictably causes serious problems in maintaining relationships. Its effects are usually so profound the only wise course of action is the intervention of mental health professionals. But today's more aged generation is often mistrusting of this "new" way of coping, opting instead to keep it all bottled up and turn to things like God and religion - or worse.

It has been proposed to me that this is not only a viable solution, but the only solution many older people will consider. And for that reason, making an appeal to one that he or she "get help" becomes an act of futility, especially when the appeal is coming from someone whose worldview is diametrically opposed to that of the person so in need of help. The glaring lack of any foundation built upon trust - owing to these conflicting worldviews - virtually disqualifies that person from being the best candidate to even attempt such a thing. In fact, to my short-sighted amazement, it apparently can cause a lot of pain.

As I mentioned to the person who made me aware of this, I can buy this way of thinking so long as it is not packaged and sold as a sort of better informed or higher kind of reasoning. On the contrary, it represents a total capitulation to a solution that is far from ideal.

And what about the consequences? We can't forget those. The consequences of this internalizing option has serious drawbacks. Among them the continued absence of any intimacy and love being shared between this victim and her family. Whereas, the getting help option offers what may be the best hope for a life consisting of at least a smattering of love and happiness. My antagonists, here, seem perfectly willing to accept that my mother live on without these benefits. It is a very sad and imperfect choice, to say the least.

So, to the argument that I am not the one to be making these appeals to my mother, fine - point well taken. Why, then, don't any of the other principals try to make the case? For two reasons. First, none of them have cultivated any trust with her either. And second, they have convinced themselves that their option is by far the least objectionable of the two.

Is it possible that some lingering anger over perceptions of having been misparented are providing at least some of my motivation? Absolutely. To deny this would be dishonest. It is categorically untrue, however, that I am attempting to impose my personal belief system on my mother. Her revulsion toward my skeptical philosophy speaks much more to her intolerance than it does anything else.

It suddenly occurs to me that I am not really admitting to being wrong about very much here, am I? Well, fuck it! I tried. I can't help it - I'm just an imperious little bastard whose arrogance knows no bounds and whose impertinence is quickly approaching legendary status!

So much for this exercise in humility.


  1. Take a deep breath Bill. You are fine. At least you are not hiding behind some false curtain and you are not pretending to live in the Land of Oz.

    It is they who are fooling themselves, and I am not referring to the religious aspect. I am talking about how she conducts her life.

    My mother has made a mess of my sisters life, who now happens to be in rehab...finally. She has 'never' admitted to having a problem, but something in her life made her sit up and take notice. Than the stars above.

    She attribute much her her life's wrong decision back to my mother. Now don't get me wrong, my sister is not laying blame to my mother, she knows she is an adult and made all of these decisions all by herself. My mother just laid the groundwork.

    When my mother is even slightly told that one of her children has demons to battle due to their childhood, then her wall goes up and I mean you can practically see it go up. So what does that tell me...'They know what they do.'

    And they do not want to face and or deal with themselves. They are not the ones that need fixing, obviously you do. Well for what it's worth Bill, you do not need any fixing. You did good!

  2. Bill. it's time to realize that there are some things that cannot be changed. You somehow appear to believe that psychotherapy or other professional help can change your mother's world view, her religious fanatacism and allow her to have a closer, more loving relationship with her family. I feel your pain and understand that you want things to be better than they are.

    Some personality disorders are virtually unchangable. Most psychologists would agree that sociopathy, schizophrenia, passive-agressive behaviors and many, many, many other personality disorders are very difficult if not entirely impossible to correct. Sometimes people are just what they are and years and tens of thousands of dollars of psychotherapy will have little or no lasting effect. I have experienced this with both a wife and a friend -severe disorders & no success after many years of psychotherapy (but they keep going which I feel at this extreme is a disorder in of itself.)

    At your mother's late age it would be even more difficult to elicit a change and would likely cause her additional stress & confusion. She has structured herself to protect herself, to rationalize her life/existance -it would be extremely difficult for her to change this late in life -and even if she could the change would not necessarily elicit the effect you are hoping for.

    Let it go. Consider the possibility that your siblings feelings on the matter may be tempered with wisdom. Remember, you can't fix everything -some things don't need fixing -some things simply are what they are whatever is done. and we need the wisdom to accept them as such.

    I don't mean to sound like a 12-step program Bill, but accept what you can't change, let-go & let life, appreciate & love your wonderful wife & daughter (you are a lucky man) ...and move upward & onward !!!

    I disagree with you on many issues Bill ...but I believe you are a good man !!!

  3. To my anonymous contributor:

    I am very happy to post the comments and consider the ideas of anyone who takes the time to offer words of sincerity and good intention in a deliberate and respectful tone. One of the very aims of this blog - as stated in the introduction atop this page - is "to respectfully engage others who might have a different perspective on life."

    •A correction for the record: "You somehow appear to believe that psychotherapy or other professional help can change your mother's world view..." --- I will assume that your words just got a little jumbled. I made no such representation. I am willing to overlook this as harmless error.

    •I draw a clear distinction between things that cannot change and things that, for whatever reasons, probably will not change.

    •I stand by my judgment that doing nothing in the face of obvious mental illness and great suffering is totally misguided.

    •Finally, I think my siblings should consider the possibility that my feelings on the matter are informed by personal experience with serious mental illness. Ten years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My commitment to a program of medication and therapy has led me to the best state of mental well-being I have enjoyed in a very long time. I can now give and receive love very freely. My mother can do neither.


    If for no other reason, I value your comments because I believe they were offered with sincerity and honesty. Thank you.