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Family Matters

Does my childhood have a connection to do with who I am today?


Your childhood not only has a connection, it actually dictates who you are and where you are heading, because your personality and feelings of self are shaped by your experiences from the time you are born to this moment. However, as you get older, and become more mature, you learn the skills of changing your life and living the way you want to, thus gradually diminishing the effect of your childhood.

At the beginning, in your very early years, the way you are treated by your parents is paramount and actually affects how you see the world to a remarkable degree. Many parents do not realise that their children are learning not just what they are told by them, but how they are told and whether that information is given in a positive, optimistic or a negative, pessimistic way. For example, a mother who is always anxious, fretful and insecure in herself, is likely to have equally anxious, insecure and fretful children, because that is all they have to guide, copy and reassure them. They come to see that way of responding as 'normal' and applying to everyone else too.

Their parents, especially the mother who spends the most interactive time with them, will be unwittingly moulding them into little copies of her emotional self without often realising it. That is why, whether we like to acknowledge or not, how our children act later in adulthood has been largely formed by what we did as parents. Often when children rebel it is because there is a mismatch of expectations which the child is trying to derogate or ignore in preference for his/her own.

Later on, the teen years tend to be the worst as you are in transition from child to woman/man and have to learn to make your own decisions, while still being guided by your parents. That is why many teens find it difficult to cope because they are emotionally conflicted and biologically uncertain, often expected to act like an adult when they are still a child emotionally, or to be a child when they are advancing rapidly to adulthood at a more intelligent rate.

From your information, you are not really depressed, but you are missing physical love, appreciation and value. As you say, you don't get hugs or feel affection for your parents. You are probably too detached in your emotions to feel good about you. Yet we all need to belong, to feel wanted and valued in our life. You are mainly feeling the effects of that absence, hence why you are in your present anxious state. Yes, your childhood treatment has obviously affected how you are acting now but, as you mature and gain more experience, you will begin to find ways to override that early influence in order to feel much better about you and what you wish to be. Your rate of progress in being whom you wish to be will depend largely on whether you regard your childhood influence as temporary and subject to your gradual empowerment, or permanent and simply blamed on your parents.

Where do you place in your family by birth, and do you think it affects your life?


Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler (1870-1937) was the first one to place emphasis on 'birth order' in the family and the effect it is perceived to have on children. He argued that youngest children, for example, being later in the order, and smaller in size, tend to feel less powerful than everyone else.

Often they develop an 'inferiority complex' which drives them to "outstrip every other member of the family and become its most capable member". However, while an inferiority complex might make someone "timid and withdrawn", it can also have the effect of propelling them to achieve above everyone else in order to compensate because "a thousand talents and capabilities arise from our feelings of inadequacy".

He argues, depending on their development, sense of self and the quality of their experience in the family, children will either imitate the adults to become more assertive, feeling powerful themselves, or will consciously display weakness and fragility to attract help and attention from those around them.

Further research on birth order has shown that first born children are more likely to go to college than children in any other position in the family and are often the most bossy. The middle child often seems to have the most negative impressions of his/her lot in life. They are the youngest one to the older sibling and the oldest one to the younger sibling - being both a big brother/sister and a little brother/sister which can cause some feelings of insecurity and invisibility. Younger children always want to copy what older siblings are allowed to do and older siblings often feel that the younger siblings get away with things they were not able to when they were the same age. However, despite these general patterns, parents should try to help each child to see themselves as unique individuals and avoid comparisons with siblings or anyone else to reinforce their identities and encourage their individuality.

In a great article, The Power of Birth Order, Time magazine, compared some famous siblings and their fortunes, starting with the young Elliott Roosevelt and his big brother, Teddy:
In 1883, the year Elliott began battling melancholy, Teddy had already published his first book and been elected to the New York State assembly. By 1891—about the time Elliott, still unable to establish a career, had to be institutionalized to deal with his addictions—Teddy was U.S. Civil Service Commissioner and the author of eight books. Three years later, Elliott, 34, died of alcoholism. Seven years after that, Teddy, 42, became President.

Elliott Roosevelt was not the only younger sibling of an eventual President to cause his family heartaches—or at least headaches. There was Donald Nixon and the loans he wangled from billionaire Howard Hughes. There was Billy Carter and his advocacy on behalf of the pariah state Libya. There was Roger Clinton and his year in jail on a cocaine conviction. And there is Neil Bush, younger sib of both a President and a Governor, implicated in the savings-and-loan scandals of the 1980s and recently gossiped about after the release of a 2002 letter in which he lamented to his estranged wife, "I've lost patience for being compared to my brothers."

Clearly all these examples suggest definite patterns in birth order and their effects.

Does any of this apply to you?

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Is my brother taking advantage of me?


Q. My brother seems to take advantage of my good nature and love for him. He always wants me to help him, or lend him money, but he never offers any help to me when I need it. As a result, I am very stressed with a lot to do and now he has asked me to collect some stuff for him when I have to catch an early train for an important appointment. I don't want to do it and feel very resentful. Am I wrong?

A. You are the wrong one here because you have allowed him to treat you however he wishes, and now that it is having an adverse effect on you, he thinks you are being unreasonable. But that is not surprising. Many people don't realise that when they do not set firm parameters of behaviour from their families and friends they will be treated like doormats.

You obviously love your brother and like to help him. But he seems to have taken that love and help for granted so that it has become only one way. There seems to be little reciprocal action on his part. He has a willing horse and so he is using it fully. But you need to be assertive. What you have been doing would come under the heading of 'passive aggressive'. You do the things quietly, you suffer in silence and every now and then, when the frustration is unbearable, you might blow. But that won't get you anywhere except a bad reputation. It definitely won't change your situation because you will just keep reinforcing his actions when you feel better.

What you need to do urgently is to make some rules for yourself and stick to them. Have a clear chat with him. Openly tell him that because you get NO help with what you are doing, things are a little tight with you now, hence why you need the money. And you need it quickly. Also point out that you won't be able to pick up his haul because you have to be on a train to Porchester. Next you mention that you won't be able to help him as much in the future simply because no one helps you and it is getting difficult to cope. Then stick to that firmly. Go on your journey without looking back.

Remember that every time you help your brother without him seeming to care about your situation you teach him to keep behaving that way and reinforce it too by your actions. Respect and love start with the self. If you have little respect for how you're treated and little self love too, how can other people show you the respect and love you desire? It is not possible. It is entirely down to you and only YOU can change things to what you want. If you don't, you will simply keep getting more of the same in a never-ending pattern.

Do you miss your Mom/Dad?


Q. I have studied in Hong Kong for years! It is far away from my hometown. Thus I haven't seen my mom for years. When I am happy, I totally forger her! When I am sad, I don't call her either.

A. Yes, I miss my Mom greatly, sometimes, and I can see my past behaviour in yours because I too left my hometown to study abroad for years. When I first came to England, I used to miss her a lot and wrote her often. Then it tailed off as I settled into my new life. When I was happy, I didn't feel the need to keep in touch, and I certainly didn't want her to know when I was unhappy, so the communication was not too regular. I just did not understand what she could have been feeling not seeing me for all those years.

The irony was that, as I got older and became a mom myself, and realised the pain and love of having children and bringing them up, my attitude changed dramatically in valuing my Mom even more and we were much closer at the end, thankfully, than when I was younger. But it wasn't a long enough time to make amends. Sadly, now that I can't see my own children often either, I am knowing the pain she constantly felt at not seeing me.

It is easy to treat parents badly because we tend to taken them for granted. We like to believe they will always be there and so ignore them when it is convenient. We also want them to be perfect so much, we burden them with all our expectations of perfection, or we blame them for what happens in our lives, never truly appreciating how they love us and what they have done for us. My mother is dead now and I wish she was still alive with all my heart. There are so many things I would do differently perhaps, so many things I would love to tell her and share with her, but I can't. I know now what it is like to not have a mother there at all. It is a strange feeling of bereavement and acute loss.

Ask yourself how you would feel if your mother wasn't there any more? Would you be glad that you no longer have to hear her chatter or try to make her smile?

It might likely change your reaction to give her a bit of joy now and then, to forget yourself and focus on her on odd occasions. It is not too much to ask and it will make you feel better too. To allow her to hear you and see you and to stop her anxiety for a while would surely make her day. Most important, if anything should happen to her suddenly, you would be very glad you did, because the memories you will have would be magical!

I believe my daughter is ashamed of me.
Should I do an Open University course?


Q. I have always felt it for many years now that she is ashamed of my lowly upbringing and education. She makes excuses to not visit with her husband and children and, although she has never said it outright, I just know this is so. I am a very happy person otherwise. I have a couple of acquaintances who I meet regularly, and I have even had a lady-friend for some years now. Anyway, my lack of education was due to my father dying young and me having to leave school and provide for the family. The question is, should I do the course to have my daughter see me in a new light, which would mean a lot of sacrifice, or carry on with my balmy life as it is?

A. You should not do the course because of your daughter or anyone else. You should do it purely because of YOU and what you wish for yourself and your life. Furthermore, when we believe others are ashamed of us, on many occasions it is because we are ashamed of ourselves and are projecting that on to them. It then makes it difficult for them to be proud of us too because it then becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Your daughter is likely to be very proud of you as her father. You need nothing else for her to be proud of her dad. However, unless YOU are proud of yourself too, no one can be proud of you because you would be asking them to take pride in what you reject and feel ashamed of. Not possible. The tragedy is that, if you feel little value for yourself, you are likely not to treat your daughter with any value either.  Perhaps your daughter senses that ambiguity - and your lack of appreciation towards her - and feels uncomfortable around it. 

It seems that your overall problem is a lack of confidence, self esteem and self belief, which no course can cure, neither can it give you self love or self value. You don't really like your life or yourself at the moment and those are the major problems for you (notice you regard yourself as 'old' - perhaps too old to learn?). 

A course can only add to your knowledge, though it can also give you a sense of achievement. Start to appreciate yourself first: the unique and wonderful being you are, who does not need anything external to make you worthy. Be proud of yourself AS YOU ARE. Make no apologies for you, so that your daughter can share that pride too. Others cannot share, or give us, what we haven't got in ourselves!

If that improved confidence prompts you to want to do an OU course for YOUR benefit, then go right ahead. But doing the course for any other reason would perhaps make you seem superficial and shallow, purely for show, the opposite of what you're trying to achieve. It suggests you are doing ti perhaps you have compared yourself to your daughter and feel inadequate.

Learning overall should be something we do until the day we die because the world changes so rapidly, we have to keep up with it to be a part of it. It should be something we value learning for its own sake, and to broaden our horizons, not as just a means to an emotional end, or to make someone else like us. In fact. any decision regarding our lives will always work best when we are doing it for ourselves, first and foremost.

How can I make things right so everyone wins?


Q. How can I make things right for everyone? So everyone wins? I asked a friend and her son to come on vacation with me. The problem is that one minute she wants to go and I had better not change it, and the next minute she can't go and is scared to leave the boyfriend for a couple days. Or I want to leave one day and she wants to leave another. The way she talks to me sometimes just makes me mad. Did I do the right thing inviting her?

A. Your friend sounds terribly insecure and insensitive. If she cannot leave her boyfriend for a few days she will lose him soon by being too clingy and fearful. It sounds as though you have been very patient, but you also need to act in a certain way which won't make people take advantage of you. Once you invite someone to accompany you, and you have changed the details for them once or twice, that's enough. You cannot continue to change every minute, otherwise your friend will just keep changing because of her own fears and lack of respect for the consequences for you. At that rate, she is unlikely to go,, after all your efforts, too.

Best thing to do is to arrange a date to suit you, invite your friend and stick to it. If she cannot go, fine. You go off and enjoy yourself because you are bound to meet people like you. If you live in fear of going off on your own, your friend will always mess you about and you will never go on your holiday. Absence makes the heart grow fonder so your friend should go away with you and allow her boyfriend to miss her sometimes. If she doesn't go and you go on your own, she might even miss you too and appreciate you even more.

Stop changing your dates and start making your own arrangements. Your friend will then see that you mean business and will either go with you or hang back. If she doesn't go, it's her loss. But don't let her spoil it for you anymore.

Finally, you can NEVER please everyone and make them happy because everyone has different needs. You can only please yourself, and those who like what you are doing will also be happy too. Perhaps you have been trying to please too much because you really want her friendship. She senses that and is taking advantage of it, which only leads to disappointment all round.

Would you constantly give money to a relative you believe is a gambler?


Q. What can I do? I started to give my father rmb 500 every month since I joined work. Recently i learnt that my father is addicted to gambling and lost all the money I give to him every month. Should i give him money every month as before and let him lose all or do I keep giving money to him, regardless of how he uses it? What do you think of it?

A. What a sad story. I feel it for you. I think you should give him exactly half of it for him to do as he pleases and save the other half in a separate account for when he might really need it. Like love, money should not be given with conditions. Your father has every right to do whatever he wants with what he gets. If he does have a gambling problem, stopping his allowance won't change his habit or addiction. Once you give it to him, it is up to him how he uses it.

Obviously, gambling is an awful way to spend money. However, it is not your place to dictate his life. You can only give him as much love as possible, help him as practically as possible, point him towards some rehabilitation, gently, and keep your fingers crossed. If he is not paying his bills, then one practical measure is to pay them for him from the allowance, then give him the remainder of the money. In this way, he won't be at risk too much.

Don't judge him, don't nag him and don't stop the money if you can afford it. Otherwise, he might even do something worse to get that money which might live on your conscience forever. By reducing the money, he will have less to spend, but at least the rest will be building up somewhere else in case of emergencies.

You sound like a very caring person and it will be a very trying time as you cannot control his life. But the answers will fall into place at sometime, just be there for him in your own way.

How mad would you be if your parents forced you to have an adoption?


Q. I am watching this show on TV where the parents forced their teenaged daughter to have an adoption. The girl is now an adult and her son has tracked her down and wants to see her. She was elated as she had always tried to contact him. But even now her mother thinks she is a fool for agreeing to see her son. How would you react to your parents did this to you?

A. This is a very tricky subject - adoption, because we cannot judge it in black and white terms. There are always so many factors involved which are known only to those concerned.

Most people would be deeply unhappy at being forced to give away their child. But we must put this in context. Depending on how old the mother is now, the times she grew up in, when she was a teenager, were very different to our modern day. Back then it was a stigma and acute family shame to have a child without being married, especially if the mother is barely a child herself. So the obvious action at the time was to give up such children for adoption. It caused a lot of pain and hurt to many mothers who were at the mercy of their own parents and the authorities, but very few pregnant youngsters could escape that fate. The aim was to pretend there was no pregnancy and life was supposed to carry on as normal. But for that young girl who had to give away her child, life would have been anything but normal with deep emotional long-term effects.

Contacting the child is another matter. It should be entirely up to the mother and child in this case. They are now adults and free to do what they wish relating to one another, so that's a good thing. I suppose the older parents are probably worried on two fronts: what to do with the guilt that will come out of seeing such a reconciliation, and perhaps worry that the meeting might not go well and hurt the mother even more. So there are lots of emotions riding on this contact and it is natural that some people involved, especially the older parent who instigated the adoption, would feel very anxious about the whole thing.

As to the mother, it is her life and it is her birth son. If he wants to see her, she should welcome the opportunity and see how it goes, without too many expectations. Just for her own peace of mind for the rest of her life, and the possibility that she could still be a kind of mother in his life, they really should meet, and good luck to them.

Would you play golf naked?


Q. It was the first tee Friday at the World Golf Championships-CA Championship and this guy, Henrik Stenson, apparently managed to get his clothes muddy. Instead of letting it spoil his performance, he gaily stripped to his boxers and continued to play. No one seemed to mind but I thought his exhibitionistic aspect must have been waiting for this opportunity since forever. What do you think about him stripping? Should he have done this possibly obscene and offensive act?

A. I think if the guy felt comfortable doing it, as he regarded the result of his play to be more important than worrying about his clothes, then that's up to him. The fact that he continued playing means that not too many people were offended by it otherwise he would have probably been ordered off the field. Our bodies shouldn't be cause for 'offence' unless they are entirely revealed in inappropriate circumstances. Anyway the guy perhaps did it deliberately for greater publicity. Who would have heard of him if he hadn't?

Personally speaking, I don't play golf and it is not one of those games that would give me any excitement. However, if I were playing, I probably wouldn't play with just my underwear as that would be too distracting for others. I would rather leave the game and change, unless I was getting TONS of additional money to remove my clothes!

As to playing naked, no way! I don't have the figure to play naked, I would be too embarrassed and self-conscious and my boobs would probably get in the way of a good putt, anyway! :o)

Should the Wishes of the Family Take Precedence Over the Patient's Right to Relieve Their Suffering?


In one word, NO! It is natural for the relatives of a patient to want them alive for as long as possible. If we truly love another we do not wish to see them die, or to suffer unduly. We can't bear to let them go. But if they have expressed a wish to be allowed to die with dignity, that wish should be acknowledged and fully respected.

i am a very active person. I love getting up in the mornings and doing what I love best: writing, speaking or reading. I truly believe that if one day I was in a situation where I could no longer do any of those things, I would prefer to die. It would be the greatest torture for me not to be able to say my thoughts, to write and express how I feel, not to turn on my computer and read something, or even pick up a book to pass the time, especially if there was no hope of getting better. If I had only deterioration to look forward to. I cannot speak for many people, but for me, it would be sheer hell on earth. That would be no life at all and I certainly wouldn't want to live it.

A loved one might think they have my interest at heart by prolonging my vegetative state to suit their desire to keep me alive, without taking into account my wish to be left to die. But, regardless of the kind intention for me, I would regard that as a selfish act, purely for their benefit, and not mine. They would likely have all their faculties and would be enjoying life to the full, yet be denying me my right to also live my life, or to die, as I wish. We don't keep best loved pets suffering. Why do we do it to others who have expressly desired otherwise?

What makes life meaningful for everyone is to have a purpose, along with the faculties to realise that purpose, to put dreams into action and to actually enjoy that chosen way of life. Take that away and life loses its meaning, with the person being just a shell, devoid of dignity, competence and hope; mere useless fodder to serve the purposes of well meaning, but inconsiderate, others. Is that a life? And just who would be benefiting from that state?

Love should be unconditional, which means that, if we truly love someone, we not only want to keep them but also to let them go, if that becomes necessary. It doesn't mean hanging on to them regardless of the state they are in. Everyone reaches a point when they know they have had enough. Often depression can make us do rash things we might not otherwise contemplate, but where the patient is clearly of sound mind and wishes to die in a certain way, it is their right to have that wish granted, so long as no one else is expected to assist in the process, if it will impact on them in any negative way.


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