I had a client who was vehemently ‘anti-alcohol’. She also projected this onto her marital relationship and was very critical of her husband if he had a drink. She had become hyper-vigilant of her husband. This created a lot of tension in the relationship, to the point where her husband had wanted to separate. They had been married for just over 5 years. While he seldom drank in the early stages of their marriage, there had been some incidents recently when he had arrived home late having had too much to drink. This had incensed her; causing her to escalate her anger towards him.
In listening to her story about her family, she spoke about her father in very negative terms. She stated that he was an alcoholic and that she could not ever remember him being loving towards her mother and herself. She felt sorry for her mother who had to put up with this sort of behaviour. She despised her father. The intensity of her rejection of alcohol indicated how strongly a role-model he was to her (albeit a negative role-model). He was a role-model of ‘what not to become’. As an adolescent, she remembered making a pact with herself: ‘she would never drink (since she saw the destruction it caused) and she would find a man who would love her unconditionally’. She was determined to make this a reality.
But now her marriage was falling apart and according to her: ‘My husband was turning out just like my father’. Her marriage was becoming a reality that she most feared.
Parents are always role-models to their children. There is no escaping this. A child will either align him/herself to certain behaviours of a parent or reject those characteristics of a parent that may cause pain. This alignment or rejection happens on both the conscious and unconscious levels. In this way, an image of ‘how to be’ or ‘how not to be’ gets created. Given this scenario, parents need to be mindful that their children will be using them as a gauge in how to live or not live life.
The struggle that my client was having with her ‘role-model’ was that it was bringing the worst out of her. She was becoming rigid, critical and judgmental. She had no trust. She was caught in a ‘no-win’ situation. In her attempts to fight off any possibility of ‘alcohol destroying her life’, she had turned into a person she disliked.
As we continued to explore her life story, it started to emerge that her mother was a critical person; she had a ‘harsh tongue’. She was never happy, always complaining. She remembered her father saying that she was always ‘nagging and emotionally cold’. As she shared this with me, I could see that she had never perceived her mother in this way. Her mother was her ‘conscious’ role-model. But the therapy process was revealing another image for her. She recalled times when her mother was so harsh to her that she spent evenings locked in her room in tears. She had had a fantasy of what she thought her mother was, but now it was becoming clearer.
Her healing required her to reflect on her pain that both her parents had caused her and to re-look at the role-model of father (of what she did not want to become) and of her mother (of her fantasy of what she thought she was).
I share this story to highlight the complexity of how ‘role-models’ get created and how they influence the assumptions and beliefs of a child as it grows up.
Children are great imitators. Parents or significant adults who want to help their children succeed in sport (and in life) need to be role-models for the acronym SPORT:
S – Striving
P – Perseverance
O – Organisation
R – Respect
T – Trust
Keep on striving to improve whatever you do. You are an expansive energy that knows no boundaries. Persevere and be optimistic in your struggle. Dealing with disappointments is part of the success formula. Organisation will help direct your energy flow. It creates order and focus. We are part of an inter-connected fabric, so treat yourself and others with care and respect. See yourself and others in their highest light. Always try your best is one of the Four Agreements that Miguel Ruiz believes will help you live a more empowering, satisfying and productive life. If you can add the energy of trust and love to trying your best, you can relax in your efforts knowing that you can reveal your full potential.
Keep practising SPORT, your children are the spectators absorbing and applauding your every move.