Ask Dr. Donna

Fear fuels mother's controlling behavior

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Recently, I was asked to write an article on "learning to let go" by a reader whose mother has a tendency to be in a continual state of panic, worrying about her adult childrens' lives. I thought this would be a good topic for the beginning of the new year.

When I reflect upon the Serenity Prayer, in which we remind ourselves to accept what we can't change, have the courage to change what we can, and seek the wisdom to know the difference, I realize that we can only change aspects of ourselves.Our thoughts, our habits, our values.

But letting go also means replacing habitual styles of relating to ourselves as well as to others with more productive and satisfying styles. How does this tie in with the teachings of Compassionate Communication?

Remember that a tendency to control is fear-based. Many times it is difficult to listen to another's fears. Instead, we want to make their pain go away. At other times, it is tempting to get caught up in the other's fears and rush in with solutions to try to fix their problem.

But I have found that most often, the other person just wants to be heard and to know that they are understood and are not alone. We can empathize with the other person's fears instead of telling them not to be afraid, or trying to take their fear away. We can express our own fears and meet them as an equal, instead of offering sympathy and coming from a one-upmanship position. We can give ourselves compassion for our own feelings of frustration and powerlessness, as well.

So, my advice would be for you to empathize with yourself first and then with your mother, and then tell her your honest feelings about her behavior. When we speak our truth from our heart not from a place of judgment it is surprising how often we will find ourselves playing on the same team.

Send your questions to Ask Dr Donna, c/o The Roundup, P.O. Box 2520, Payson, AZ 85547 prior to the first Friday of each month.

The Compassionate Communication practice group meets from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. every second and fourth Monday of the month at 107 West Wade, No. 2. All are welcome.

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