Q & A
Please note, the information presented below is not enough for you to make an informed decision. My replies are based on my experience working with similar circumstances. The questions and answers are hypothetical, speculative and incomplete. Please seek additional support from the Employee Assistance Program if you are struggling with similar circumstances.
1. How do you recommend to keep a good relationship with a parent that is going through a mid-life crisis?
Be honest and authentic when voicing a concern. Have at least three data points (evidence not opinions) to confront them with. Just remember to give them room and time to process your concern after you confront them. That means you allow them to get defensive without taking their push-back personal. Parents typically do not grant their adult children credibility and see them as children. Remember individuals; even parents have a right to make their own decisions even if we see them as mistakes.
2. How to approach a parent about their possible marriage issues? One parent always acts totally different (good) when not around the other spouse.
Recognize how this parent is attempting to manage your impression of them. They are acting from a place of shame and inadequacy. Their change in the presence of the other parent also indicates how much control they have over their presentation. Your mental map of them is probably accurate as they are sending you a message. The question to explore is, “what message are they sending you?” If you act on the impression they want you to see, you will be guilty of collusion. This becomes a violation of your integrity. You have to be ok with them knowing that you have an accurate map of what they are attempting to hide. Let this parent know that you SEE them and the message they are sending you. This confrontation will become the beginning of an adult to adult-child relationship. This parent will give you begrudging respect.
3. What to do if a parent is always negative towards you?
Acknowledge when you are hurt. Say “Ouch, did you mean for that to sound so critical, negative, condescending, etc.” Then wait for a reply. Recognize the negativity is a reflection of their limitation and they will attempt to impose it on you. Allow yourself to have an accurate mental map of their mind and motives. Be prepared as you might not like what you see. This is where you get to set adult boundaries by saying no thank you to negativity. While negativity may be habitual, it is often very sharp and calculated. You do not have the power to change your parents, but you do have the power to change how you react to them. Remind yourself that your parent’s job of parenting you is complete. You get to decide how you respectfully change the relationship YOU have with them. They will not like or support the new you. They may even sabotage your change to put you in your place. Assess how much of their approval you are seeking. Stop seeking their approval. As this parent has a mental map that you need their approval and they are using negativity to hold you emotionally hostage. Continue to grow yourself from a place of integrity and self-determination.
4. What to do if a family member never takes any of your advice serious?
It’s because they do not want the advice or acknowledge you as a credible source. You have to grant others the gift of self-determination otherwise known as allowing others to fail. Others have the right to struggle for their own answers even if the answers are right in front of them. Continue to be available without saying “I told you so.” You become credible when you set the example and operate with integrity.
5. What’s your advice for a person who is not good at hiding emotions and hence gets bullied? Is this a function of the left brain and right brain dysregulation and can they develop and improve?
Yes, this person can make dramatic improvements if they develop a good self-image, work on self-acceptance, and become comfortable living in their own skin. This person needs to slow down and self-soothe when they recognize their brain regressing and dysregulating. This person MAY feel inadequate when they compare themselves to others. This person has a very rich internal dialog and MAY be suppressing emotions. This person should also get a mental map of their antagonist and recognize the mental map the antagonist has of this person. The antagonist is using a tactic to dysregulate (mess with, pick on, taunt, or bully) this person on purpose. Understanding your antagonist’s patterns are predictable gives you a chance to hold on to your brain (left and right) and change your patterns.
6. If you’ve ended a destructive relationship, but must interact with the other person, how do you cope? How do you keep your dignity and sanity when you have to see someone who’s hurt you so badly?
First, continue to operate from a place of integrity. Don’t allow them to infiltrate or rent space in your mind. With your new mind mapping awareness skills, ask yourself if they intended to hurt you. Map if they are still looking for evidence of hurting you and still enjoying its impact on you. Decide if you want to give them the satisfaction of knowing they hurt you and the continued enjoyment of hurting you. Second, forgive yourself then praise yourself for making a course correction and taking action. If it was a destructive relationship, you did not lose, you gained.
7. How do you resolve a conflict with a partner who shuts down when there is a conflict?
“Don’t chase a scared bear into a cave.” Make it safe for your partner to take a risk and stick around. Communication is more than words. Many partners avoid conflict because they feel like their opinion doesn’t matter or will be used against them. Some partners can’t tolerate when they’ve upset or disappointed their partner, so they disengage. Mind map your partner to get an accurate message regarding what they are communicating to you. Convey how you might like what they have to say, but you are mature enough to handle their emotions and opinions. Continue to invite your partner into the discussion, self-soothe and remain approachable.
8. How do you express to a partner that it is not okay to make decisions without consulting first?
This question is based on the assumption of shared values and boundaries. Every person comes with their own set. “If you want better results, ask a better question.” How much autonomy is allowed for each partner? This couple needs to establish a collaborative alliance. Couples can share values but must not impose them on the other, or the values will be resisted and met with sabotage.
Another approach is to decide when is it ok to make autonomous decisions and when do we need to collaborate? For example, some couples say any decision under $50 does not require a consultation. Every person within a relationship fights with two emotional pulls; the pull of attachment and the pull of autonomy. Values and boundaries keep these two in harmony. The question implies this couple needs to revisit their shared value system or lack thereof.
9. What about anyone who has PTSD from military service? Can they mind map?
Yes, this person’s radar is on overdrive as they are constantly mapping the environment and others. The problem is when they are regressed or dysregulated; their mental map tells them everything is a threat. They are mapping from a place of fear, so they are hypervigilance (on guard, suspicious, jumpy, and withdrawn). Their mind is flooded with fear and anxiety. Their mental map comes out as judgmental, critical, opinionated, and black or white thinking, i.e., you’re either with me or against me; friend or foe. Operating from that high level of arousal is also exhausting. Anxiety management and self-soothing help these traumatized individuals regain perspective to lower their arousal. When they have a lower arousal, their mind mapping is also on a lower threat level.
10. Any advice for someone who says, “I don’t want to hurt my husband by breaking up”, or “I’m going to lose a lot if I break up with my husband,” when it’s showing signs that their marriage is not like it used to be?
This is called the two-choice dilemma. This person realizes no matter what decision they make, and it’s going to cost them. What they really want is a third choice that comes without a price. However, that is not one of their choices. This person does not like the horrible options in front of them.
Sometimes this person tries to create a third option and beat the system by avoidance, or sabotage. Let me explain, this is the person that says I’m not willing to be the bad-guy by leaving my partner so I’ll make them be the bad-guy and leave me. Unfortunately, their partner maps them out and calls their bluff. Then they are right back where they started with the two-choice dilemma. Sometimes people don’t want to hurt their partner by leaving because they would rather hurt them by staying. You have a lot to lose if you go and you have a lot to lose if you stay. When the pain is high enough, this person will mature enough to pay the price and make a decision without expecting their partner to decide for them. Relationships are people growing machines. They force us to confront our self, regarding what we really want.
11. When you discussed “mapping others”, your powerpoint listed two quotes. I considered them excellent points. “The worst in me denies its own existence. The best in me acknowledges the worst of me.” “The worst of me is blind to the worst of other while the best of me acknowledges the dark side of others.” Can you expand on the meaning of the 2nd quote?
If we fail to acknowledge the dark side of others, we will be blindsided and risk putting them on a pedestal. We set ourselves up to be disappointed. I encourage individual to SEE their antagonist (wife, husband, co-worker, parent, etc.) for who they truly are. At least then, you know who you’re dealing with and what they are capable of doing to you, with you, and for you.