Melissa was beside herself with frustration and exhaustion. She had taken responsibility for the happiness of her husband—now ex-husband—her children, her friends, and more. She was at a breaking point.
She told me that her father had always loved her very much, but a few questions revealed that he didn’t love her unconditionally at all. Instead she was simply his “special girl,” because with her cuteness, talents, cooperation, and more she entertained him and made him feel better about himself. So she felt responsible for continuing to “make him happy,” and she was good at it. Her mother was a depressed alcoholic, so Melissa assumed the responsibility for lifting her mother’s spirits also.
Melissa’s parents trained her well, so as an adult she entertained, cared for, and served everyone, for which they gave her buckets of approval. But the burden steadily increased, and she could no longer carry it.
I helped her see that no child is EVER responsible for her parents’ feelings. Never, so her parents had lied to her—albeit unintentionally—all her life. So had every person in every subsequent relationship.
“All your life you have been living a lie,” I said, “and your unhappiness has been the price. You have also hurt the people around you, as you have taught them that they don’t have to be responsible for their own happiness, because you would assume that responsibility for them.”
Melissa wept as she realized the truth of what I was saying, but she was still puzzled. “But how do I leave it all behind? How do I just let go of what I’ve believed all these years? It’s all I’ve known.”
“Oh, I know. You were Daddy’s special girl, and now you continue to earn the position of being everyone’s special girl, and wife, and mother, and friend, and whatever. Exhausting, but you can’t imagine living another way.”
“No, I can’t seem to let go of what I always do.
“It can actually be easy to let it go,” I said, “if you see that what you’ve learned is like any other lie. Imagine that all your life you’ve been told that 2 + 2 = 5. So you believed it. Of course you did, because EVERYBODY important to you told you it was so. But this also caused you so many unsolvable mathematical problems, which confused and frustrated you. Finally somebody taught you that 2 + 2 = 4, and they proved how it worked every time. But how do you let go of the old lie, that 2+ 2 = 5? You’ve believed it a long time. How can you just dump it?”
“Because it’s not true. Letting it go is the only thing to do.”
“Same with all the other lies of your life. Why hang on to what is obviously not true? People once believed the world was flat, but do you hang on to that? You once thought the world was as big as your crib, but are you still lying in your crib? No, once you identify something as a lie, you simply discard it. Right?”
“Now let’s pick one of your lifelong lies. Is a CHILD responsible for her parents’ happiness?”
“You’re right. As adults, though, we find this harder to understand, because we have been poisoned by the word SHOULD all our lives. With thousands of words, gestures, and tones of voice we were told that we should be responsible for other people. But that’s a lie. You alone are always responsible for your own happiness. If that were not true, you would be a never-ending prisoner to everyone around you, happy or not according to what THEY did. Do you believe this?”
“So all the stuff everybody taught you about what you had to do to make them happy, and how you had to be responsible, clever, dutiful, beautiful, talented, and special in order to be worthwhile would be lies, wouldn’t it?”
“So let it all go. You’re NOT responsible for the happiness of others, with the exception of your own children when they’re very young. But you don’t have young children anymore, so you’re responsible only for your own happiness. You’ll still have occasions when the old lies just pop up in your head and influence your feelings and behaviors, but now you know that they’re lies, so you can STOP yourself and dump them. Identifying the lies in your life enables you to make different choices in everything—how you think, how you feel, and how you behave.”
Let go of your negative habits and beliefs!
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