“Do I really hate my own child?
What kind of obnoxious person am I, that I could possibly even think this way?”
If your T.T. (troubled teen) is now making an appearance as T.T. (terrifying teen) you may genuinely be living on the edge of your coping skills, verbally abused by somebody who is now taller and stronger than you, and is literally ‘in your face’, pulling themselves up to their full height, puffing out their chest and shouting just 15cm away from your face.
There may even be a threat of physical abuse thrown in for good measure.
For anyone who hasn’t experienced this, it is just as frightening as if a stranger had walked in off the street.
This is a stranger, you don’t know this person anymore, they are an unknown quantity bearing no resemblance to your (ex) fluffy bundle of joy, yet you have to calmly stand your ground and maintain control of the situation. It can be like living with a monster.
Even if you child is undergoing therapy, living in this ‘war zone’ can easily provoke the opening questions in your mind. What’s worse is that there is no way you feel able to confide these terrible thoughts to another, as you feel ashamed and certain they won’t understand. So they circle around in your head and life becomes even more painful as you beat yourself up for daring to have such awful thoughts.
So can you love a monster?
The short answer is ‘yes’, and if you’re still wondering ‘how’, then read on for the long answer.
Firstly, before we get to the ‘main course’ it is helpful to know that extreme anger, an aversion to something unpleasant from which we want to escape as quickly as possible, is often expressed as a feeling of hatred.
Anger and hatred are both ‘delusions’ i.e. negative minds which we need to eliminate with training so we can become more peaceful, positive and happy.
If we have developed anger towards this unbearable situation and the person who appears to be creating it, then as the situation becomes more extreme, our anger may appear as hatred even towards our loved ones.
Now onto the main course…….Love.
What is Love?
Have you ever wondered what love is? Ever found yourself near the end of a relationship, looking at the person sleeping beside you and wondering “Do I still love them?” “What exactly is love anyway?”
Long ago, I couldn’t figure out exactly what love was, there seemed to be many different types, love for a partner, parent, brother, sister, friend. All called love but all slightly different?
Then I discovered that it was much easier to understand it in Buddhist terms.
Broadly speaking, Love is wishing others to be happy, without selfish intention or expectations of the other person to make us happy in return.
This love is the cause of happiness for all concerned and is totally free of any pain or suffering.
But what about all the love songs we hear:
“Nothing compares to you”
“UnbreaK my heart”
They all sound pretty painful don’t they?
This painful aspect of love is not actually love at all. It is something called ‘attachment’ (another delusion) which contaminates our pure love and causes all our problems.
What is attachment?
Attachment, in relationships, is when our love for another person is conditional upon their behavior. We have an expectation for them to provide us with something in return…….happiness.
In our culture when we meet a new partner, our initial bond is usually one of strong attachment. We focus on their real or imagined qualities, exaggerate them and create an ‘inherently’, wonderful person who (we think) is a true source of happiness.
You know how it is, eyes meet across a crowded room / bus/ street, we mentally create in our mind the type of person they appear to be: funny/kind/wild/sensible/exciting and so on. Have you ever noticed how they appear to become more good-looking as we increasingly dwell on these attributes they appear to possess?
They are just the perfect person we need, must have them, they will make our life so happy! We may well grow to love them but our love is always mixed with attachment, an expectation for them to fulfill our wishes and make us permanently happy. Unfortunately, this is something they can never do, as real lasting happiness comes from within (read more here), hence we will feel happy sometimes (when they behave in the way that pleases us) then unhappy, miserable, angry etc at other times.
This is why attachment (disguised as love) is painful – we are focused to a greater or lesser degree on our own needs, and suffer when they are not met.
Compare this to pure love: our deepest wish is for the other person to be happy – end of story. We do everything we can to facilitate this without any selfish motivation.
Can you remember how happy you felt after performing a good deed and making somebody else happy—this is the real key to making ourself happy!
Love is one of the most powerful positive minds we can develop and is very beneficial for ourself and others.
(This does not in any way infer that we should become a ‘doormat’, put ourselves at risk in a relationship or tolerate abuse. If necessary we can say “No” or end a relationship while keeping a loving mind, rather than an angry mind.)
A Mothers’ Love.
Mothers love is unconditional, right?
We all think this and to a large extent we would be right. However even a mothers love is mixed with some attachment.
Did we not expect that having a child would make us happy? (A wee bit of expectation and self – interest right from the start!)
Did we not have hopes that our child would be well-behaved, well-mannered, kind and love us in return? Do we not feel a little irritation, impatience or anger when they rebel, behave badly or reject us in some way?
Or feel disappointed when they engage in activities we disagree with?
This is the pain of attachment, a mild undercurrent of expectation that they fulfill our wishes and become the person we imagined them to be.
When we feel only pure love, we wish only for them to be happy without having to carry the burden of self concern.
So, back to our T.T……panic over!
We can see how it is possible to love them even during this difficult time. It doesn’t matter whether we feel they love us, or behave according to our wishes, at the bottom of our hearts we want them to be happy. If they were happy, they would not be behaving in this way.
Try looking at their facial expression when they are giving you grief and try to hold in your heart the thought “I wish you to be truly happy”. We can then get on with the job of dealing with the difficult times with a calm, loving heart and mind.