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Social Psychologist & Personal Advisor

Below is Dr Matt's Answer
to a Burning Question


A Heart Remedy for Parental Manipulation:
Hoping not Coping is the Cure

Dr Matt:

My name is Lyndsay, I live in Long Island, I'm seventeen, and I'm single.

This has nothing to do with a problem that I have personally. It's about my parents. I want to leave home. I don't want to be in my parents house for another second of my life. I am wasting away here because it is far below my ambitions.

I love my parents, I cannot say they are bad people. They are bad parents. My dad is a drunk, not an abusive drunk because he's afraid of my brother, but a stupid drunk who isn't a very good or nice person when he is drinking. He relapses, my mom kicks him out, he swears he'll never touch liquor again and she let's him come home. This has been going on for six years.

I do not remember the person my dad was when I was a child and I do not care too. whenever she kicks him out, my mom always says that she'll never let dad come back, drunk or not, and up to this point I believed her every single time. So I suppose I've been just as foolish as her.

Last time I told her that if she ever let him come back I was going too leave. I've wanted to leave for over a year now, desperately, I begged them too let me go to military school, private school, there excuse was that I was too sick, they sent my brother instead. I had chronic appendicitis, I recently got my appendix removed, problem solved. Except my mother still doesn't want me too go. She insists that I live with her mistake.

She married him and I could care less if she spent the rest of her life with him but just keep me out of it. She hates him. They both use me as a human shield against each other, I am brought into the middle of everything. I hate it, my grades have gone down, I can't think straight or be happy in any way. If I left the wall would be gone and I know they could see that they aren't meant for each other anymore but while I'm here, no progress is made because I am too nice, and I am the one who suffers for it.

I'm graduating high school a year early but it's not enough. I know where I want to go. There are these people that live right beside the military school where my brother goes to school, it's been hardest this past year without him. It's peaceful there. A huge contrast to the yelling and screaming that goes on here at home. They are genuinely nice, intelligent people that would be glad to have me if I explained to them my situation.

I already have  friends there as well as my brother who was really the only real parent I ever had, but I can't hurt my mother's feelings; I've already tried telling her it's because of my dad not her but she gets defensive about that as well. When I told her I had been planning on leaving the last time her exact words were "how would that help me?" I felt like telling her that that really wasn't the point. How do I leave without hurting her feelings?


Related Articles: When Parents Use Physical Aggression and Violence to Enforce Authority
Three Modes of Parental Influence: Compassion, Cooperation, & Coercion
A Perfect Response to Abuse

Dear Lyndsey:

The short answer is this: You don't.

If you leave, your mother is going to feel hurt. And she will likely use that impending "hurt" to manipulate you to stay. Just as your mother has a hard time leaving your dad; you may also have a hard time leaving your mom and dad. Mom will likely use "guilt" as leverage to keep you at home.

Just listen to the lines and logic that your dad uses with your mom, to get her to stay; your mother may use the same methods of manipulation upon you. You say that you are "nice." Your mother may use your nice demeanor to keep you at home.

Since your mother has no stability and satisfaction in her relationship with your dad, she looks to you as the only person in her life that brings her some security and happiness. Indeed, that was quite a selfish comment, when your mom said "how would that help me?"

If you were raised by emotionally healthy parents, they would be able to see things from your perspective--healthy parents empathize, as do emotionally healthy children. The fact that you are asking "how can I leave without hurting my mother's feelings" . . . reveals the empathy you have within your heart.

Your mom may wake up and smell the roses in time, and realize that your home environment does not provide the best setting for you to learn, grow, and be happy--as you say, to complement the level of your "ambition."

It is NOT the job of a daughter of your age to be the emotional caretaker of her parents, but that is what typically happens anyway, when one of both parents are addicted to alcohol.

By the way, moving to a more healthy home environment does not mean you cease to be a daughter to your parents, and you cease to communicate with your parents--it simply means you cease to live under the same roof with them.

If you feel a spiritual prompting to stay in your home with your dysfunctional parents, that would be the only scenario I can think of for you to continue living at home--it could be worse, you could be living in a home where you are physically or sexually abused.

If remaining at home is what the Creator wants you to do, He will help you through it and show you a purpose for it. Further, the Creator would NOT have you stay at home simply to have you suffer and be unhappy. If you feel spiritually prompted to stay, you will remain at home to be an instrument in His hands--most likely to help your Dad out of his alcohol addiction and to help your mother cease being an alcoholic enabler!

On the other hand, leaving home as soon as is reasonable may be the very action that will help both your mom and dad wake up and face reality. Your mom and dad need to read my book, "Changing Your Stripes." They both need to experience a profound change from their core; the premise of my book is that "a tiger can lose his/her stripes, and become a new kind of creature."

The metamorphosis that my book describes is mediated by the powers of Heaven--in fact, this IS the ONLY WAY OUT for your father. He will never be able to overcome his addiction through the sheer force of will power--that approach will fail every time!

In every day you remain at home, I encourage you to do everything in your power to persuade your dad to seek and experience a profound Change of Heart--a mighty change that happens ONLY with the help of Heaven. Your mother needs to experience a Change of Heart as well, for her particular weaknesses--that are different from dad's.

Your mother's tendency to stay in an abusive environment is what I call "the unwanted comfort zone." In the case of your mother, she doesn't like her marriage, but it is the only life she knows, and she doesn't have the strength to leave it!

It may be true that if you leave, your mother would have NO MOTIVATION to remain in her marriage, if your dad continues to be a drunk.

Again, the strength your mom and dad need to take decisive action to CHANGE will come from the powers of Heaven. And this is the same source you will need to rely upon--one way or the other, whether you stay or whether you go. This means, you will need to follow the impression of your Heart.

If you follow your Heart, things will ALWAYS work out better than if your follow the personal preferences of your head. The Creator is infinitely wise, and you can completely rely upon and trust His guidance (see Proverbs 3: 5, 6).

Here's brief introduction to the process of following your Heart.

You can also learn from a letter that I just wrote to another young woman, who like yourself, receives much abuse from her family environment. While her situation is different as to the details, the remedy for you and her is very similar.

Mastering a challenging situation is ultimately a matter of mastering yourself! You must not expect that things will get better simply because tough times decrease via avoidance. Life is to be lived with gusto! Challenges are to be met head on, . . . for it is directly "in" our challenges that we find our ultimate destiny. In the ever-appearing adversities of life, we can increase in strength of character; a character that at mortal death is the only possession of which it can be said: "you took it with you." What you will take into the eternal world is . . . what you become!

So, whether you feel to stay or whether you feel to go, you need to keep in mind the growth that can occur in your character, as you meet the challenge of whatever situation you may face!

Don't just "cope" with your situation; the response that is far superior and will guarantee your personal growth of character is "Hope." By faithfully following your Heart, you will have "Hope" to do exactly what needs to be done--and yes, "leaving" may be the loving thing, and the right thing to do. The very thing that the Spirit will inspire you to.

All the best,

Matt Moody, Ph.D.
Social Psychologist

* * * * * * *

The Greatest Prize
for Life's labors isn't
in material possessions
or impressive accomplishments,
but in the progress of personal character.
You labor for your own becoming, this is your richest reward.
Who You Become is your greatest possession,
make it your Masterpiece!

(Changing Your Stripes, 2nd Edition, page 274)

The book, "Changing Your Stripes" presents principles for getting out of
the ditch in which you've been dumped (the difficulties of which you are a victim), and
the ditch in which you've jumped (the difficulties for which you volunteer).

"Mastering a challenging situation
is ultimately a matter of
mastering yourself!"

- Matt Moody 

"Changing Your Stripes," teaches you the principles that lead to lasting change,
making you a new kind of creature capable of communicating
with calm, even as storms of contention swirl.

If these principles resonate and ring true,
then . . . this book is for you!

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Changing Your Stripes

Social Psychologist & Personal Advisor

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