South Asian, on top of that, from a typical middle class family- we deal with parental interference throughout our life. In general, South Asian parents are not good at expressing emotions but they are quite good at providing instructions on what their children should do in life.
“Be an engineer, a doctor or a banker”, “Get a job in one of those big companies”, “Get married to this person”, “Have kids”, “Once married, you cannot get a divorce“
And so on!
These are our deep-rooted societal norms that our parents think we should follow. They followed and they think they led a happy life; and thus, as long as we follow, it is perceived we are happy too. But the day we decide to go against the norms, all hell breaks loose.
First, our parents get emotionally and mentally affected. They become sad and upset.
Second, our aunties! They do not leave a single opportunity to remind our parents about our dark future. Parents start getting more concerned about what aunties (read society) perceive about our happiness than what we actually think.
Third, to ensure that we have a happy future, our parents start their emotional drama. The tools range from a subtle coercion (“I am tensed lately because of whatever is happening, that is why I am sick”), passive-aggressive behavior (“You know what we have sacrificed to raise you. I did not raise you to see this day”), to outright aggression (“My only wish before I die, if you can’t do it, we do not need to talk”).
In short, you become a villain and your parents become the hapless victims.
Are parents always right?
I have struggled with this question for years. We love our parents so much that we cannot see them beyond perfection. Our father is our hero, and mother, our best friend. They must be always right.
But when our decision is challenged by our parents, and we are made to feel guilty about not able to do what they want, we start feeling suffocated and drained in our relationship with our parents. It cannot be right.
Confront emotional blackmail
Acknowledge that the moment your parents try to hold you responsible for how they feel if you do not do what they want, that is an emotional manipulation.
And it is not healthy. Many individuals have lost control of their entire life and its purpose through such emotional manipulation. Hence, before it gets worse, have guts to confront your parents.
Confronting parents is the most difficult task. We grew up seeking their approval, affirmation and love. We love our parents and we do not want to disappoint them. But if you do not confront, your parents will never know how their manipulation is creating a hostage situation for you.
Remember emotional blackmail continues as long as you allow it to happen. In one way, when you confront your parents, you are actually giving them an opportunity to understand you as an individual.
The 3 Cs! Compassion, Counseling and Communication
As you confront, you also have to understand your parents’ life revolves around their children, and they associate their happiness with their children’s lifestyle. Recently I asked my father, “Why can’t you think of associating your happiness beyond your children? Have you ever thought of traveling? Maybe you will get happiness visiting new places.” He had no answer as he had never thought about it.
Hence, it is important to be compassionate about our parents’ weakness for us. In fact, we can become their counselors by encouraging them discover their dreams and aspiration beyond their children. Happiness is based on perception. It is our perception of circumstances that causes our happiness, not the circumstances themselves. Communicate with your parents about it and help them discover their perception of happiness beyond their children.
After all, parents are just human. They make mistakes just like we do
Acknowledging that parents are normal people with their own strengths and weaknesses has helped me discover my parents as two imperfect individuals who created me- another imperfect individual. And I am finding this equation more appealing.
I have not followed the traditional norms per se, which has not gone so well with my parents. We South Asian children are not used to opening up with our parents, but I decided to make an effort to talk about it. Over the years, I have learned to open up about my life, be more expressive about my feelings, explain my priorities and make them understand what I am.
Unexpectedly, once I started opening up, they too started sharing their fear and assurance about me. I explained why I am perfectly happy with the way I am. As they discovered me as an individual (not just their little girl), all of a sudden, my parents actually started listening to me.
Finally, do not forget to give credit to your parents
I share this quote from Sadhguru about good parenting
“The only thing that you can teach your child is how to survive. …..Always, the parent encouraging the child to learn to think for himself, to use his own intelligence to see what is best for him is the best insurance you have so that the child grows up well.”
Going by this quote, I never fail to flatter my parents by saying they succeeded as parents. At least, their children can make their own decisions about their life.
Featured Image : Flickr, Jake Stimpson