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How to deal with the mortality of my parents?

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This topic contains 21 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  anita 2 months, 2 weeks ago.

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  • #331247

    Lloyd
    Participant

    Every time I say goodbye to a member of my family as I leave the house, I worry that it’s the last time. I am hyperaware of my family’s mortality, but rather than it being a cause to make the most of them here and now it just makes me anxious and miserable. I spend most of my interaction with my mother contemplating how this could be the last interaction, and by the end of it I feel like I didn’t even spend time with her because I was so worried all the time.

    It’s like I can’t settle in a Middle Way between clinging and apathy (a compromise being non-attachment) because both extremes stress me out so much.

    Do you guys get where I’m coming from? Anyone have any advice?

    • This topic was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by  Lloyd.
    • This topic was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by  Lloyd.
    #331689

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Lloyd:

    I am bringing your thread from page two to page one, hoping other members will reply to you.

    I don’t remember if we discussed this in your previous thread: did you ever attend psychotherapy or counseling for your anxiety?

    anita

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by  anita.
    #331697

    Lloyd
    Participant

    Hey Anita,

    You are clearly a very kind soul, I’m touched you remember my last post from months ago or at least made the effort to investigate my profile. I also really appreciate you bumping this post up.

    I also apologise for never replying to your last response on that thread; it was what I needed to hear, but evidently not what I wanted to hear at the time!

    I have seen three counsellors. The last one helped quite a bit. This issue has never come up though as I was more preoccupied at the time with other issues in my life which are now largely resolved (mostly by Buddhism!).

    #331701

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Lloyd:

    Thank you for your kind words. I want to return to your thread tomorrow morning, re-read and reply to you then, in about 14 hours from now.

    anita

    #331813

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Lloyd:

    At 17, March last year,  ten months ago, you wrote: “I know I will probably be a practically different person a month from now- just like I was a month ago”.

    You then wrote about your “urgent duty to try and heal the wounds of the world”, this “borderline obsession.. with mass suffering” that caused you to lose your passion for music. You lost sleep over it one night, consumed by thoughts, “and suddenly.. it feels like everything’s falling apart and I’m losing the will to even live because the world feels so hostile.. a world so corrupt, so greedy, so angry, so miserable, so unequal, so alienated from what makes it beautiful”,  and the struggle is completely hopeless”.

    I asked you on that thread to share about your suffering in your individual life, and you answered: “Indeed like everyone I experienced my share of suffering as a child that has followed me like a shadow to this day”, you mentioned wounds and a baggage (“my wounds.. the baggage I carry”), but you didn’t give any details about the nature of your wounds and baggage.

    Ten months later, January 2020, you posted a new thread regarding a different concern: your family’s mortality: “I spend most of my interaction with my mother contemplating how this could be the last interaction.. so worried all the time”.

    You clearly read and practiced Buddhist principles, resolved some issues using Buddhist principles (other issues in my life.. are now largely resolved mostly by Buddhism!”), and tried to use those to ease your worries: “I can’t settle in a Middle Way between clinging and apathy (a compromising being non-attachment) because both extremes stress me out so much.

    My thoughts this Tuesday morning:

    You wrote in March last year that you will “probably be a practically different person a month from now”. I say we people remain amazingly the same throughout our lives because our brains are formed by a certain age, and all the most powerful neuropathways (what we learned about ourselves and about life) were formed and set in our first/ early second decade of life. We live the rest of our years and decades with that same formed brain.

    New learning is of course possible at any age. The difficulty in practicing and being helped (and helping others) using new learning, such as learning principles of Buddhism, is in unlearning what we already learned early in life.

    This is what you learned earlier in life about the word: “so hostile.. corrupt.. greedy.. angry.. miserable.. unequal.. alienated”- not in these exact words, a child doesn’t have this vocabulary. This vocabulary is added on later in life, as you read books and such. As the child that you were there were feelings more than words. You wrote it yourself: “the world feels so hostile”.

    You suffered some injuries, the wounds you referred to, and it hurt. And you got scared of feeling that much hurt. Not wanting to feel that hurt again. Next, you want to feel better, to make sure you will not experience that early, personal hurt again, so your problem-solving brain attached that fear to famine ten months ago, and more recently, it attached that fear to mortality.

    But your personal fear is attached to what caused it in your individual life. Your wounds were not hunger/ famine wounds I imagine. For a child, not being seen or heard, not being noticed for a long, long time is wound enough, it feels bad enough for the child to not want to feel that badly again.

    If you want, we can have a conversation about these things, including the principles of clinging, non-attachment and middle way as they apply to feeling better and healing.

    anita

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    #331863

    Lloyd
    Participant

    I will message you personally if that is okay.         A

    #331865

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Floyd:

    I am not aware of any personal messaging option here.

    anita

    #332045

    Lloyd
    Participant

    Your response is much appreciated Anita. Your way of quoting the person you’re talking to keeps what you’re saying very rooted in the subject matter at hand and lends your suggestions a lot of weight.

    I didn’t share the suffering in my individual life because I didn’t feel it was particularly relevant, or at least the specifics of what I endured. But your suggestions would have one think that indeed it is very relevant.

    My obsessive-compulsive tendencies, for as long as I can remember, robbed me of any sleep most nights until I was a teenager and filled my days with dread as I convinced myself I was being stalked by a monster. I was then emotionally abused and sexually harassed by my teacher. This event along with abuse from other people at the school was in response to me being gay, which continued into high school where a rumour was falsely spread that I took pictures of boys in the changing rooms. Due to depressive moods and intense self-hatred I’ve experienced since childhood, I was suicidal since primary school, and attempted towards the end of high school. Then in college I was shown audio of children being raped without any warning.
    I’ve never sat and acknowledged all that before, so thanks for giving me a reason to. (Sounds sarcastic but it isn’t, lol).
    What you’re saying about being largely the same person throughout our lives is clearly true based on the scientific evidence you referred to. I’d be lying if I were to deny my subjective experience though, and my subjective experience is that my life so far has been very much a movement through a multitude of identities. Maybe that is my identity, though. Or maybe my brain isn’t done developing.
    As for the rest of what you’re saying, well, I’m not sure what to say. I’m sorry to express that I simply don’t relate to the narrative you’re describing; the pain of the abusive persecution I faced as a child ripples on in its own way today as I struggle to accept the person I am, and suicidal ideation is still very easy territory for me to enter— these are the ways in which my childhood hurt continues today. I was under the impression that being scared about your parents dying was quite a common issue and quite directly tied to that external stimuli (my parents’ mortality). I am open to the idea of this fear being an alternate manifestation of a deeper childhood fear I carry due to trauma, but my heart tells me that is not the case. Maybe I am not thinking about it in the right way though.
    I still am repulsed by the human race’s capacity for selfishness, and whether it was the base of my childhood wounds or not, the fact is that famine still continues today— as does climate change, escalating political instability, the killing of innocent animals for food… the list goes on and on, it’s just every person’s choice as to whether or not they let it be an issue for them. My resolution has been to try and help people as best I can.

    I guess what I’m trying to express here is that whilst you seem to imply an underlying essentialism to all the problems I find myself obsessing over, I find it hard to see it that way and instead view my problems as the direct result of circumstances in my life and in this society. My parents ARE mortal, and unless I either was a particularly enlightened being or just didn’t love my parents very much, I’m sure that was inevitable to cause me some level of suffering. Sure, I’m a very sensitive person, so it might hurt more for me than the average person, but I don’t feel it’s an extension of some deeper trauma, as satisfyingly tidy as that answer may appear.
    I don’t mean to be difficult and I’m sorry if that’s exactly what I’m being. I would be interested to hear your take on how the principles of clinging, non-attachment and the middle way apply to feeling better and healing.

    #332089

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Lloyd:

    I want to check my understanding with you so that I don’t  type away based on a possible misunderstanding. I will keep this post on one specific issue only, the mortality of your parents (title of your thread).

    My position (restated here): fear of death is in all of us, everyone is anxious about death, our own, our parents’, everyone we care about. No human is free from this anxiety. But when a child grows up in a family where he doesn’t feel safe, a family where there is aggression or severe emotional neglect, the child fear grows and intensifies, and it latches on to this or that topic (ex., mortality) and obsess about it to extremes (“My obsessive- compulsive tendencies, for as long as I can remember, robbed me of ay sleep most nights until I was a teenager and filled my days with dread”).

    Your position:  your fear and extent of your fear regarding your parents’ mortality is about the objective issue alone, that is, of mortality, and has nothing to do with your subjective experiences as a child.

    Do I understand correctly?

    anita

    #332231

    Lloyd
    Participant

    Hey Anita,

    Thank you for trying to clarify. Yes, your summary is correct, that’s how I feel. I did not feel there was much agression in my family and certainly no emotional neglect, though of course I could be wrong about that. So I find it difficult to link my current anxieties to such things when I don’t feel they exist for me.

    #332281

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Lloyd:

    You wrote yesterday:  “Due to depressive moods and intense self-hatred I’ve experienced since childhood, I was suicidal since primary school”. Any idea what brought about that intense self hatred during primary school?

    anita

     

    #332443

    Lloyd
    Participant

    Hey Anita,

    Most likely the bullying I got from teachers and peers for being gay (/feminine/generally unconventional). The bullying stopped in reality, but it’s continued in my mind far beyond that time wherein I see myself as harshly as my bullies saw me.

    I will say that I did remember something my dad said when I was a child actually that really hurt— he said that nobody likes me because I’m annoying. So I suppose experiences with family does come into it.

    #332551

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Lloyd:

    “The bullying stopped in reality, but continued in my mind far beyond that time”- bullying gets recorded in the brain, the words and the emotions involved: shame and hurt and anger. And when the bullying stops, the recording gets replayed again and again.

    This is how the brain works.

    When your father told you that nobody likes you, it doesn’t sound so bad now, does it, it doesn’t read like severe bullying, like that which you experienced at school. It doesn’t sound like it now. But for a boy, his father is god. If you don’t remember now seeing your father as god, it is because you forgot.

    Young children naturally view their care taker/ parent as god.

    So when god says something, the child listens. And believes.

    Fast forward, you are now a grown (very young) man, you remember he said: nobody likes you! You see a man in your mind’s eye saying this, your father at the time, long ago.

    Back then, it was a boy hearing these words from god.

    See/ hear the difference?

    anita

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by  anita.
    #332597

    Lloyd
    Participant

    Definitely yes, that is how the brain works.

    I see the difference.

    And I suppose the answer is to reason with myself and get it into my head that my father is not God, that I do not need to base my perception of reality around how my parents spoke to me.

    I have had those thoughts and contemplated that. I have done all I feel I can to rewrite that. But my mind presses on. My mind is insistent on me seeing myself in the worst way possible.

    That’s not the whole story. I am capable at times of seeing myself in an incredible light. I’m capable of arrogance even. But even all that is just a coping mechanism sort of response to the actual low self-esteem that I have.

    And sometimes people compliment me. It feels good. I resist it a bit but it feels good, it validates who I am and makes me feel like all my hard work pays off.

    But it would be nice if I could feel good about myself without compliments. If I could, most of the time, perceive the inherent worth that lies within me just for being alive. Most of the time I miss that.

    #332601

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Lloyd:

    There is more in your recent post than what I will be responding to now. I want to respond to the rest later, probably tomorrow morning my time.

    “I suppose the answer is to reason with myself and get into my head that my father is not God, that I do not need to base my perception of reality around how my parents spoke of me”-

    – if only it was that easy. When your father spoke to you the way he did, it is not only his words, as in pieces of dry information, that were recorded in your brain. Also recorded was the emotion behind his words, the tone of his voice, the expressions on his face,  plus how you felt then, shame, if that’s what you felt, hurt, anger, whatever it was that you felt at the time.

    All of that was recorded, and replayed later. The emotions you felt then, these are often replayed without the words, just the shame, hurt, anger, and so forth.

    And it is not only one incident that is recorded, but many, and if the many were similar, or felt similar, then the emotions recorded before were reinforced.

    Can’t delete all that with logic. If that was possible, oh, if only it was possible I would have saved so much of my life from misery.

    What can be done? I will be glad to share that with you when I am back.

    You are welcome to post more and I will be back to you in about fifteen hours.

    anita

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by  anita.
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