Are you living with Jekyll and Hyde?
If you are the parent of a teenager you would probably agree to this question. Even the gentlest journey through the teenage years can be an unpredictable ride, and for some its like living on “the Big Dipper” (or whatever the scariest rollercoasters are called these days).
A happy smiling teen one minute can turn into a roaring lion the next. Sometimes even the simplest question such as “Hi, how did your day go?”, produces a scowl that tells you “Just don’t go there”.
Communication lines can be intermittent or completely down when things get very icy. Either way your teenagers mood seems to change every time the wind blows. Unpredictable at best ,unmanageable at worst.
We may feel helpless,hurt,impatient or angry.
“Has somebody kidnapped my child overnight and left me with another?” …. is how it may seem at times.
A previously kind, sweet, loving child may almost become a stranger. They may be dismissive,angry, patronising, sulky, rebellious, insulting and sometimes even downright vicious – you name it – it’s possible to find it in the troubled teen (T.T) repertoire. If you’re lucky you may get an odd flash of the loving child you recognise.
There’s no doubting the fact that the teenage years can be painful both for the T.T. and for the whole family.
The sense of rejection can be overwhelmingly painful for parents and siblings, who may previously have had a good relationship with T.T. “How could he/she say that to me..how could they be so hurtful?” It can literally bring the tears to our eyes sometimes.
Problem is, we don’t know how long this rough ride is going to last: could be months, could be years, so we need to find a way of coping with the situation, which helps us to maintain some degree of mental equilibrium and enables us to give them the support they need.
Firstly we can look at our own reactions and how to deal with them.
During this difficult period, we may experience unhappy states of mind such as impatience or anger, both of which are called Delusions in Buddhism.
Delusions are negative minds such as anger, greed, jealousy, impatience, selfishness and attachment, which destroy our peace and wellbeing. Whereas positive states of mind such as love, generosity, patience and cherishing others, result only in happiness, both for ourselves and others around us.
“Aha!” I hear you say, “Positive minds don’t necessarily lead to happiness because I have loved my T.T. dearly since the day they were born but now it’s causing me so much pain. If love is a positive mind, why am I feeling pain instead of happiness?”
Well the reason for this is because our mind of love is mixed with a delusion called attachment.This delusion tarnishes our pure love. Pure love is only concerned with the happiness of the other person with no selfish intention or motivation. It never causes pain or suffering.
However attachment, on the other hand, is when we view the other person with an expectation of them to make us happy by loving us back or behaving in the way we wish.
So the attachment part of our love is causing the pain, when our teen is definitely NOT behaving in a way we would like or expect after nurturing them all these years.
Delusions are sneaky little things, they are our ‘inner enemies’ and appear unbidden, destroying our peace and happiness. They cause us to behave in ways we wouldn’t even dream of when our mind is peaceful. Have you ever thought ‘Oh no! I wish I hadn’t said / done that. What on earth made me do it?’
We say / do these things when we are in the grip of our delusions, when we become overwhelmed and all sense flies out of the window.There are many delusions, but the ‘biggy’ is called ‘Self-Grasping Ignorance’…..this could loosely be described as our confused way of perceiving our world, and is very subtly active all of the time.
Generally speaking, due to self-grasping, we mistakenly view our world and ourself as very fixed,solid,and permanent,and would like it to remain that way, thank you very much.
We then develop all the other delusions when anything threatens this wish or view in any way. We spend our life ‘swimming upstream’ so to speak, wearing ourselves out trying to maintain a non-existent status quo.
Every single aspect of our life and our self is impermanent. We can see this in everything around us,trees,flowers,dereliction,mechanical failure,even faded wallpaper and the new wrinkles we see in the bathroom mirror!
But despite our intellectual knowledge of the obvious impermanence of our world and self, we still try to grasp on to some sense of permanence…… instead of ‘going with the flow’.
Unfortunately, self-grasping is the root of all other delusions. It is like the ‘generator’ behind all the other delusions,empowering them and making it very difficult to maintain any peace in our daily life. Always there, always looking for ways to cause trouble. (and boy does it succeed in doing that!) So the more we grasp at this imaginary solidity and permanence of our world, the more we are troubled with delusions and the more we destroy our happiness.
It is important not to identify ourself by our delusions. We may label ourself as ‘an angry person’ or ‘a jealous person’, which then causes us to feel bad about ourselves and often leads to guilty feelings.
Delusions arise in our minds, we are not our delusions,we are afflicted by delusions, in the same way we would be afflicted by an illness or disease.
Happily this means we can do something about them!
How to deal with delusions.
Firstly, we can try to redevelop our view of ourself and the world. Look around and gain some recognition of its nature, the constant ebb and flow of all things, begin to ‘let go’ of the feeling that all things should be,or remain, the way we want them to be. Accept nothing exists is this way. Nobody can control the world. (Though many try and fail miserably!)
We need to become a fearless crusader who accepts change and works with it.
Then, when we notice our mental peace is becoming disturbed by delusions (i.e. we start to notice a feeling of impatience, anger or any other negative minds creeping up on us, ) we can apply the antidote:
1. Remember that everything is impermanent, including whatever problem or difficult situation we are experiencing.(Now isn’t that good news?)
2. Try to hold the opposite positive mind, to return us back towards a peaceful happy state. So, for example, we would practice patience instead of impatience, and love instead of anger.(Similarly we can try to be happy for others’ good fortune rather than jealous, cherish others when we feel selfish,and so on.)
It’s a great start to even notice when you begin to feel disturbed, as for most of our lives we have just been carried along by our uncontrolled mind , like a balloon on the wind,unaware that we even had a chance to control its direction.
Be careful not to repress your bad feelings, if we feel impatient or angry etc, accept it, try to catch it faster next time. Repression just builds up and erupts, whereas here we are noticing our wayward minds and starting to train them to be more peaceful and calm; the natural state of our mind when not disturbed by delusions.
3. We can also learn simple meditation techniques (See this article) to help maintain a sense of mental equilibrium throughout our daily life.
(There are also some very good articles on expanding your meditation repertoire to deal with all the problems we encounter in our daily lives here)
The next stage is to look at how delusions affect our teenager, improving our ability to understand and support them………………….
Coming soon in Part 2