Dear Dr. Norquist:
I am in constant pain. I have a 15 year-old son who lives with his mother in Florida. For the past year he has been unwilling to speak to me or to return my calls. He and I were very close when he was young – until his mother left and moved so far away. His mother has turned him against me and now he won’t even talk to me.
I am broken-hearted about this. Every day I am overcome with sadness. I think about him all the time. I am remarried now and I know that it is not fair to my new wife for me to be so preoccupied and so depressed. But I don’t know what to do about it. I just keep thinking about my son and feeling so sad. What can I do about this situation?
Dr. Norquist responds:
As a fellow parent, my heart goes out to you. Our children forever remain an integral part of our hearts and our lives – whether they are with us or not. You obsess because you do not know what else you can do. Focusing on things you can do to help your situation will help lessen your obsessions and your depression.
You do not have control over your son’s or your ex-wife’s behavior, so focusing your attention and your feelings there will only leave you emotionally stuck, inwardly churning with irresolvable anger, resentment and sorrow. When you find yourself in this mode it is important for you to redirect your attention to something you can do to up-lift yourself from this negative state of inertia. You have a responsibility to both yourself and your new relationship to heal and grow through the hardships that are presented to you. We create our lives moment to moment through our feelings, perceptions, and beliefs. Our lives become an accumulation of the experiences and emotions we have lived. The more control you have over your inner emotional state, the more you can consciously create a satisfying and enjoyable life for yourself.
My suggestion is that you search for ways of transforming these emotions. For example, you could develop a routine of sending love and protection to your son. Start by actively feeling (deep in your heart) your love and your best wishes for your son. Next visualize a trail of light – going from your heart to his heart, conveying your love to him on a wave of light. If you want you could also ask your favorite spiritual, religious, nature, or personal loved ones to also watch over and protect him. When you find yourself obsessing, turn your energies instead towards sending him love. This will help both of you. Learn to consciously practice redirecting your energies in a positive direction. With some creatively, you can find many ways of doing this. Go for a walk, do something physical, focus on your new marriage, develop a hobby, read, do something to develop your own life. It is OK to feel your sorrow. Loving leaves us vulnerable to both joys and sorrows. Acknowledge your sorrow but do not allow yourself to be dragged into a state of inertia.
Life is always moving forward. Change is the essence of life. Your son will also change over time. He is likely to be more open to you as he matures. Do your best to give him opportunities to know that you love him and are there for him. Over time, he just may sense your love and be able to respond. In the meantime you must attend to the quality of your own moment to moment emotional state, doing your best to create the emotional quality of life that you want and deserve.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2014 Chaitanya Counseling Services