039: Navigating Parental Approval

In Podcast, Relationship by Robert KandellLeave a Comment

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Welcome back to Tuff Love, with Rob Kandell. This show is very personal to Rob, and it’s about parental approval. He just spent the last weekend with his parents, in Marin County north of San Francisco. He goes to visit whenever he can. Rob’s Mom is a big listener of the show, so even though he’ll be talking about her and knows she’ll be listening, they have an adult enough relationship where he can be real and honest on the show and it will translate. His Dad doesn’t listen to the show.

A friend asked Rob recently what the key to success in a relationship is. He said, just tell the truth. That’s what Tuff Love is: being willing to tell the truth in a manner that is connective, not disassociating. Most people lie and withhold and don’t tell the truth. We don’t say the things that really hurt us and we’re not clear in our communication. From the truth, both parties have the option to have a better and more connective relationship. But if you don’t tell the truth, nothing happens.

Here are Rob’s story on the subject of parental approval:

  • Rob visited his parents on Friday and on Friday night, his Dad revealed an incomplete thought about money. He and his Dad have a very different way of relating to money so it’s always an interesting topic. On some level, he was enrolling Rob in the conversation to help with the thought, but Rob didn’t take it that way.
  • Rob got upset, but it wasn’t the proper time to reveal all his emotions because he doesn’t have the honest relationship with his family that he could safely say it.
  • Later in night, Morgan and he talked about it and it moved off the topic of that Friday night discussion to this deep seated belief that his father does not approve of him as a human being. That is Rob’s core belief. That’s why Rob decided to do the show on parental approval.
  • Rob grew up in Long Island, New York, upper middle class and Rob was given a book of who he was supposed to be as a man in today’s society. The pathway was very well defined for him. He was a first-born New York Jew so there was a step-by-step process.
  • The process was: do well in high school, do well in college, get the first job and do well, get the second better job, build your career, marry someone, buy a house, produce grandchildren, especially a male to keep the lineage, work hard until you’re 50, then when you retire you can start to live the way you want to live. You can have vacations along the way.
  • At 28 years old, in 1998, Rob went to Burning Man and the plan got fucked up. There was an exit from the path, he took the exit and burnt the book of who he was supposed to be.
  • In doing so, Rob totally screwed his relationship to his Dad because he was no longer living his Dad’s viewpoint of who he should be, but his own viewpoint. Rob broke the rule of a first-born Jew and went off the beaten path to create a life he wanted to live. At 46, Rob is so happy he did that.
  • Rob believes he has totally skewered any chance of having his father’s approval in this lifetime. He was surprised when this thing happened on Friday night because until now he thought he was cool with that fact. But then the conversation happened that triggered the realization that some part of Rob is still desperately seeking his father’s approval.
  • In the past Rob has overtly tried to have a conversation about this with his Dad. At 40 years old he wrote a very heart-wrenching email that laid out and took responsibility for going off the path, and seeking to mend the bridge and get connected in this lifetime. His Dad never responded.

Rob did some research and there is a lot of literature on it:

  • Approval is a very powerful thing. When we’re young, our life depends on our parental approval. Our psyche also depends on it. We’re physically dependent on our parents until around 7-9 years old, when we start to get some of our independence.
  • Babies can die from not enough touch, and you can really influence a child’s life when they’re young. If they don’t feel approval, that’s where therapy and a lot of the angst comes from later in life.
  • Morgan does something called hand-in-hand parenting, which is the most approving process. You basically sit with a child in their tantrum, you approve of them and say, ‘It’s okay to have your feelings.’ It’s amazing.
  • There’s approval and disapproval. Approval basically means that you’re in agreement with what the kid is doing, and disapproval basically means you’re in disagreement and wish the kid wasn’t doing that.
  • Approval is not the same as love. Rob can feel his father’s love but not his approval. Notice in your parents whether you feel their love and/or their approval.
  • Some of the articles Rob found talked about learning to be your own parent once you reach adulthood. Learn to parent yourself in times where you don’t feel your parental love.
  • Rob knows his Dad’s not going to change, so he could put a lot of time and energy into that, but learning self-approval is an important piece. Be your own parent. Learn to love yourself and take care of yourself. If you don’t have the skills or the balance to do that, hire a professional. Get a great therapist or coach to help you learn to parent yourself.
  • Rob’s Mom is someone who does change and is willing to change. But if he depends on them to change, he’s fucked. Learning to self-approve in your own psyche is where the power comes from.
  • Know that your parents are also dealing with your own pain bodies. Kids can often sense the state of Mom or Dad, but they really don’t care.
  • In a conversation, Morgan managed to pull out of Rob’s Dad that his relationship to money actually stems from his father (Rob’s grandfather) who was raised in the depression. Pain bodies translate from generation to generation and we take on our parents’ pain bodies. So on some level, Rob’s reaction not only to his Dad’s stuff but also the history of his grandparents too that has passed down through the generations.

Rob’s steps for how to navigate parental approval:

  • Like yourself and self-approve. This is important for all aspects of life, but the more you activate your own self-approving mechanism, the more empowerment you feel.
  • Parents know how to push you buttons because they’re the ones who installed them! The more you like yourself and approve of yourself, the less affect your parents will have on you.
  • See them for who they are and not who you want them to be. They are going to go through their life by their own rules. More often than not we have magical thinking about who these strangers are and should be, and we don’t see them for who they are. That’s living in the projection rather than who they are.
  • Speak up or let it go. If you have an issue with your parent, speak up or let it go. If you want something to change, be honest and say something, or let it go, because you’re the one holding on to it.
  • Surround yourself with approving people. If you’re not getting approval from your parents, find other people to give you that approval. Look for someone who is going to be a solid, approving force in your life, in addition to self-approving.
  • Be your age. Rob is 46 years old, not 14 years old. He’s not a child anymore. Remember, if your parents aren’t approving of you and you’re an adult, you can just be who you are in the moment.
  • Approve of your parents. Don’t just accept them, approve of them. If you approve of them and show that you really believe in who they are, then the chances of them approving of you will increase. More importantly, you’ll feel the sensation of approval in their presence when you think about them.
  • If you’re constantly in a state of disapproving of them, you are creating a lot of disapproval in your own body. Create the approval of them, and you create a new dynamic.

Rob coaches Jo, who lives in Ireland while her parents live in England. She has a great relationships with them, when she’s not with them.

  • Jo has other supportive people around her in Ireland who can provide that approval and she has a woman to provide that maternal energy when needed too.
  • When she is in the presence of her parents, Jo feels that she isn’t herself and that they couldn’t handle the full weight of who she is. She feels partly responsible for that because from 17-36 years old, Jo created a mask, a false identity when she was with them, to pretend everything was fine. Possibly because she thought they’d disapprove if her relationship didn’t work out.
  • Jo feels like she could do the ‘say something or let it go’ approach, but when they comment on things about her daughter, Jo can’t let it go because they’re very fear based and their message is different to her.
  • The angst is that anything she says to them they take as criticism. Yet she’s never asked how her feedback affects them. There is a lot of inner dialogue that Jo is creating around this.
  • A lot of Jo’s usual routine goes out the window when she’s with them. She stops meditating and drinks when she’s with them. She’s aware that the pain body thrives when you have a drink, control lessens and our grip on the parts of ourselves that we don’t want to bring to the surface loosens.
  • Rob suggests that Jo has a lot of repressed rage and other feelings around her parents. When they’re not around, it can go into a little box inside. When they’re around and there’s alcohol involved combined with a lack of meditation, the monster, the angst comes out.
  • Rob’s advice is deal with those feelings. “Let your parents off the hook, they’re just being who they are. They aren’t going to change. Those experiences are your empowerment.” It’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity.
  • Jo says her past experience of her parents is that they’re bad listeners. Rob suggests that Jo set them up as bad listeners because she lied to them, set up a façade and pretended to be fine when she wasn’t.
  • Words create reality. Jo made a comment that she is a bad daughter. Rob picks her up on that language.
  • Notice what is and be willing to do the internal work. Heal yourself first before you can heal the relationship.
  • Approving of yourself is a rare thing in today’s society. The messages are ‘you’re doing it wrong’ and on some level it’s getting worse. Your ability to approve of yourself is an amazing gift to yourself and those around you.
  • If you want to move through your shit, it’s a lot easier to do it with someone else. By yourself, it’s close to impossible because you don’t have the reflection. Whatever modality fits you, go for it.
  • Parents might be assholes. And at the same time, all you have is yourself and your internal world. If you want something to change, there are three options in life: you can get in agreement with the situation, you can get the situation in agreement with you, or you can lose.

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So, let’s discuss it. Bring it to the surface. Like all Tuff Love shows, let’s not shy away from it. Confront, absorb and learn.