As I sat with my dear friend at lunch, her sadness was overwhelming when she began sharing details about her young adult daughter. The tears flowed freely from her eyes. She could barely speak as she disclosed recent knowledge of her daughter’s gambling addiction. She spoke to me of her daughter’s numerous credit card debts, the loss of her fiancé, and her inability to attend classes at ASU from stress and increased alcohol use.
Having known my friend for many years I recalled how she and her husband have historically bailed their daughter out of numerous situations over and over throughout her teenage years and on into adulthood. My friend asked my advice. “What should I do? My husband is tired of rescuing our daughter, but I just can’t bear to see her go through all this pain and suffering? I’m losing sleep at night. I worry all the time. I just don’t know what to do. Should I pay off her credit cards? Should I make her go to Gamblers Anonymous? Should I talk to her fiancé? We don’t want them break up?”
I responded by recalling a story from Abraham Hicks that goes something like this: We are all given our boats. We take our boats down to the “River of Life” and launch them. Oddly, most of us launch our boats going upstream. We paddle and paddle, struggle and struggle to get our boat moving upstream when all we really need to do is lift our paddles, allow our boat to easily turn and head downstream. On our journey in the River of Life from time to time we bump in to the boats of our loved ones and dear friends who may be struggling with their boats. We are tempted to jump in their boat and help them row. The message is – Stay in your own boat ! You don’t need to get into someone else’s boat. It may tip over…there will be too many people in the boat…the person never learns to use their own paddles…..Stay in your own boat !
This story has served me well over the years for myself and my clients. What has my friend’s daughter learned in the past by having her parents bail her out of her troubles? Did she learn there are consequences and accountability so she can grow into making better choices? Did she learn healthy coping skills for life’s challenges? Did she learn to blame her parents for her problems and guilt them into rescuing her? Has what she and her husband done in the past helped? Did it change their daughter’s behavior in any way?
My friend clearly needed to stop the worry and get some sleep. So, I also shared a tool to stop her mental chatter.. the chatter that keeps the never ending negative thoughts that are fuel for worry, lack of sleep and anxiety racing through her head alive. I taught her to take control of her awareness by shifting her focus from her racing thoughts to her solar plexus. One cannot have thoughts and focus on the solar plexus at the same time. This allows silent space to be created…space of quiet and peacefulness, relief from the thoughts. In the silence of the space we may receive intuition about our next action or a sudden insight may change our perspective. The space of the quiet silence is a welcome relief. When ready, move the focus to the heart center and proceed with the plans of the day. Repeat this as necessary. Some days it’s 100 times a day to stop the negative chatter…some days it’s not at all.
By the end of our lunch my friend decided to respond differently than before to her daughter’s dilemma. She vowed not to get into her daughter’s boat this time. She decided she could not make her daughter go to Gambler’s Anonymous. She understood she cannot control her daughter’s choices, she can only control her own. She knew the relationship between her daughter and her fiancé was not hers to interfere with. She would be on alert for her daughter’s guilt attempts and not fall for them. She would allow her “Mother’s Heart” to be prudent and let her daughter make her own decisions, get herself out of her own mess, while lovingly stand by her side for support. She would stand with the intent of “allowance” instead of judgment.
By shifting her response and taking control of her awareness my friend was empowered to worry less and sleep better. It has allowed the space for the opportunity for her daughter to heal her addictions and grow.
My friend is learning to no longer rescue her daughter and keep her in the victim role. This has been one of the greatest lessons in my own life with my relationship with my own two daughters. A “Mother’s Heart” sometimes means stepping back and allowing our adult children the space to make different choices and offering guidance only when asked.
As one of my favorite authors, Brian Weiss M.D., says “Relationships are our primary method of learning and evolving.”
To Greater Peace & Joy In Our Lives
Barbara Christine Haines, M.A.Ed.