The Limitations of Love, Empathy, and Compassion

In general, our dispositions of love, empathy and compassion for our adult children are important not only as directives of healthy parenting, but, as a way to chart a productive course around potential or ongoing conflicts.

But at some point, those emotions can become maladaptive, because, left unreciprocated, they’re filtered through the self-critical lens of guilt, regret, and self-hatred. This is because our job as parents is to be in ongoing self-examination of whether our actions are maximizing our children’s well-being and to be very hard on ourselves if we’re getting feedback that we’re failing in that regard.

But, what if they don’t care about what’s maximizing your well-being as a parent? What if all of your best efforts in the present and the past are being treated as though they have no value, and that you have no value as a person, let alone, a parent?

At that point, you may be far better off working to contain those ambient feelings of love, compassion and empathy and replace them with some good old-fashioned detachment. This requires an active and vigilant set of sentences that you repeat when you start to get swamped with sadness, fear, regret or guilt such as “I’ve done everything I can, now I’m letting go,” or “It is what it is, and I’m not going to keep throwing good energy after bad,” or “I’m accepting this as out of my control and not worth my continuing to pursue, emotionally or in any other way.”

Do something for yourself today that reminds you of your value and your worth as a person. If you’re not taking care of yourself as a punishment for your child’s rejection, you’re just buying into the noise.

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