Saturday, March 24, 2012


I don't even know what I was running for - I guess I just felt like it.

~ J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

She went from cool to hot in about 15 minutes because nobody leaped into action.

The dynamic had always been to make Dad "the bad guy" for resisting her whims and desires and Mom "the good guy" who was willing to rescue her from frustration and distress. (This is called splitting. Teenagers are pros at it. When their efforts are frustrated they’ll pull a tantrum worthy of a two-year old.) But since Mom had learned to deflect her daughter’s pressure tactics, the girl was at loose ends. Nobody was willing to jump in and be the hero.

The girl had a meltdown in my office. Because her parents knew that the problem their daughter faced was manageable and that she was well-equipped to handle it, their hearts broke for her but they did not cave. Instead they just gave their sobbing child lots of empathy, encouragement and support.

In our next family meeting, the girl described how she had handled the situation, by herself. She got through it alone and was glowing, proud and confident.

By forming a united front, by refusing to split into good cop/bad cop, the parents in this story enabled their daughter, not only to find the resources she needed within herself, but also helped her to see her own parents more realistically. Mom and Dad taught her that there are no good guys and bad guys out there. That nobody’s a monster and nobody’s perfect and that there are no magic solutions to life’s problems. We all just do the best that we can.

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