Respect Begets Resilience and Empowerment––Anne Mason & Thea Mason

My sister Thea Mason and I discuss material examples of Benign Neglect––both in parenting and in relationships, with others and with oneself––which demonstrate respect and cultivate resilience. Which leads to empowerment.

Transcript below:


Anne:                                         00:01                       Okay. Hi, Thea.

Thea:                                         00:03                       Hi there, Anne. Good to see you.

Anne:                                         00:06                       Good to see you too. So starting this again. So this conversation we’re gonna talk, going to follow on last week’s conversation, which was about Benign Neglect as an approach to parenting, as an approach to all of our relationships, in order to encourage everyone to be resilient, right,? To, to help cultivate resilience, to help us grow our resilience. So, and so we want to talk about some material examples of that, both in parenting and in relationships. And I’m going to let you start with that.

Thea:                                         00:52                       So last conversation we had touched on a very early stage of development physically for a young child, being that they pushed up onto their hands and knees in the pursuit of movement and crawling and independence. And we were discussing a little…

Anne:                                         01:12                       Wait, wait. Can I just interrupt? And, and that most parents know instinctively to not assist that, because it’s so critical in them exercising those muscles in order to be able to do that. Because if we do it for them, they won’t exercise those muscles.

Thea:                                         01:32                       Right. I mean, and you have pictures of that in all of nature, right? I mean, one most everyone is familiar with is the caterpillar pushing, struggling out of the Chrysalis or it a chick hatching out. So if you, if you disturb that process, they are weakened and therefore cannot actually survive. So that’s a little, you know, picture. And as human beings, we have so many more varied and complex stages of these opportunities of the possibility to build resilience or to be hindered and crippled, essentially, for the way we meet the world. And so we were talking about, you know, some, some natural things that occur when children are young. And some of the things we were discussing, and from my experience and I’m sure yours in parenting, you know, as children start to develop freedom and then they want to climb the tree and they want to get to that branch. And sometimes as parents we want to support them and be there to help assist them into those places. And I think through learning we find that if you are to assist past a point where someone is ready to carry themselves, you’re actually putting them in danger because a child will only climb to that which they can climb down from and get down from. Right? because they know they made it up, they can make it down. And if you’ve put someone there without their own striving and faith in their own ability, then there’s a fear lock. Right? And then they cannot quite do it. So that was one other example. I don’t know if you want to speak to that or…

Anne:                                         03:21                       No, I mean I think that’s a perfect example. And, and the word that came to mind was, if we put people somewhere prematurely, right? They, they really have to get there themselves in order to then be able to jump to the next, and the next, and the next, I think.To build the foundation. Right?

Thea:                                         03:43                       Absolutely. And another place that I see that in a really practical way out of the work I do and, and my history with my children is, is a swing. Moving on a swing takes its own impulse and will, or rhythmic movement of pushing and pulling oneself where they want to go. So those were just two very tangible, in terms of the development of the human being in pursuit of freedom and fun.

Anne:                                         04:18                       And, you know, and, and, and another one that just occurred to me I remember when we’d go to the beach together when our kids were younger and I would be like, oh, I forgot the shovel, or I forgot the buckets and shovels. And you said, here are their shovels, right? And I adopted that approach more across the board. Less props, less props, less toys, less things. And out of that, I would see wonderful projects being conceived and dams being built and holes being dug and in, in, in, in wonderful ways. Right? And, and doing that more and more reinforces that with our kids.

Thea:                                         05:06                       And builds, and also builds a space of more ease as a parent. You know, I mean, that’s the other part that it doesn’t have to be so busy or fraught with details. And can be a little bit more pleasant.

Anne:                                         05:25                       Well, and you’re, you’re much more fluid when you are living and approaching everything a bit more simply. You don’t need so much. Right?

Thea:                                         05:34                       Very true. And and I will take that just into another stage of development when it moves from the physical with our children to, you know, as from my experience as my children have gone into adolescence and the different emotional states that are coming up, and the discomfort that comes up. And I had a very clear experience, and I can recall the memory moments very clearly where my, my child was uncomfortable, struggling in some pain emotionally about something that was emerging for himself. And I can very clearly see the tactic he was working to employ was to bait me to create a situation of conflict, a drama in some sort to bait me into that, to engage with him, to give him a channel to release his frustration inappropriately. To release it towards me so he could be distracted from actually stepping through his own work. And I remember seeing it so clearly and instead of taking the bait, which I’m sure I have at times, but in that moment really clearly, distinctly saying, “oh, you’re having a hard time, huh?” So that stopped it.

Anne:                                         07:12                       But, but it’s also, it’s also acknowledging it, right? It’s not ignoring it. So it is being, it’s being supportive, and it is seeing, regarding.

Thea:                                         07:22                       And it gives a window. So, “You’re having a hard time” and he then could have the window to say, “Yeah, I am.” And I could say, “Do you want to talk about it?” So it’s really about learning how to have a healthy relationship with the things that come up, a relationship with oneself to be able to name and identify when something is presenting itself for us to look at.

Anne:                                         07:52                       Yes. When something is troubling us. Um I had mentioned to you previously about something with my, with one of my kids. She, she has a tendency to come into the room when she’s upset. Again, she’s coming to an age where it’s beyond the physical, it’s emotional, it’s settling into this, this world and some of its challenges, right? Of being. ‘Cause They’re not just in this oneness of childhood all the time. Right? And Hmmph!” You know a poutiness, throwing oneself on the couch maybe and turning her head away from me. Right? And sometimes I will actually say nothing. If it goes on, I will do what you had mentioned, which is “What’s going on?” So acknowledging that I see that there’s something going on, but refraining from, “Oh, what’s wrong? Are you upset?” Because I feel that indulging that leads to what I see among peers. And I would say women more than men for one reason or another.

Thea:                                         09:16                       Or at least from your perspective.

Anne:                                         09:17                       Okay. From my perspective, I have noticed, and maybe it’s because I have more female friends. Right? But, but I’ve noticed a tendency for people to feel slighted, hurt, something, by me. And rather than come to me and talk to me about it or express that––to wait for me to figure that out, whether it’s through their behavior or their silence. And I think when I was younger, I might have, I feel like it’s, “taken the bait” on that. These days I’m much less inclined to want to get drawn into that at all. Where I feel I’m, I’m asking you, I’m respecting you enough to let me know if there’s something bothering you. If there is, I will do everything in my power to address it. If you can’t even take the responsibility to, to let me know, then I’m not going to be your parent and draw it out of you. Right?

Thea:                                         10:29                       Right. And there, there are so many layers within that. Yeah. And, and it is, it’s, it’s an interesting thing. We’ve spoken about that, you know, finding that balance of being, being sensitive and compassionate to people in a struggle. And also not, not continuing their stuck dynamic by engaging into that. Right? Because, because that’s what we all have, these ways of being that have worked for us out of some difficult situation in our past, our becoming an adult. And if those ways of functioning that may truly be limiting to how we relate with ourselves and the world, if they have still gotten what we want, we’re not going to change. I mean, and that’s, and I have a very good friend, I remember talking about his struggles with parenting. And I remember saying that, well, if there’s, if your children are still getting what they want through their behavior, they’re not going to change. We’re pretty simple creatures. Right? If we’re still getting our basic comfort met our basic needs met, we’re not going to change. You know, so that ties in with that in terms of that dynamic with friends, you know, if we’re still getting the response we need, we’re still getting that sort of feeding of attention and energy, which I think gets, can get really distorted.

Anne:                                         12:13                       Absolutely. It’s, it, it can become codependent. It can just perpetuate a dysfunctionality. Forever and ever and ever really. And when we had talked about this earlier too, you used the word enabling. We don’t want to enable patterns and ways of being in our children or our friends or our partners or ourselves, which keep us limited. Right? And, and not as empowered. Because how empowering is it to feel free and confident enough to, when something that someone has done that you care to remain in a relationship with, bothers you enough to impact you, to be able to then say, “Hey, you pissed me off. You upset me. You hurt me.”

Thea:                                         13:16                       Or I was really hurt when you did this. You know, that’s that language again.

Anne:                                         13:24                       Totally. I hate that I even said that ’cause I, I’m so, I’m, I’m usually very clear about the fact that largely it’s, it’s our choice to feel hurt or not or you know…

Thea:                                         13:42                       Often it is. And I think something we’ve talked about before, when I have had a, an experience of being hurt by something someone has done, if I address it and speak to them, it is often the case that they just hadn’t even realized it. Right? That it wasn’t a true intention to hurt. It was my feeling of being hurt, you know? So what happens, this going along with that, that picture that we give each other opportunities to grow and expand our, our purview of, of perceiving, if that makes sense. When people give us feedback I have a friend right now who, you know, I’m trying to find my way. They’re in, they’re in a difficult time and I’m trying to find the way to be supportive and compassionate in a way that feels really true and sincere for me. And they have expressed to me, “You know, I felt sort of hurt by this.” So I know that by them giving me that information, and now I get to work with playing with––What’s the right dynamic to be a supportive friend here, because I don’t want to take it on, but I also want to make sure they do know I’m here for them.

Anne:                                         15:12                       Right. Again, you want to help draw them out of patterns that they may be also stuck in as we all get in. Um but at the same time, supportive. It’s a balance. Uh just to hit another couple material examples before we have to end. We talked about one one of mine was oh well, well one was when the kids say “I’m bored,” right? They go through these developmental stages where that is, is a, a running theme, you know. They’ve come to awareness and consciousness that they are not just, again in the oneness as much and able to just move from one thing to another seamlessly. They actually now are having to think about what it is I want to do. I am…

Thea:                                         16:10                       They’re separate a little bit.

Anne:                                         16:12                       Yeah. And so the, we both I think have a similar approach with that, which is “How lucky for you!”

Thea:                                         16:20                       “How fortunate you are to be bored right now.”

Anne:                                         16:23                       “I don’t have the luxury of being bored. So work with that and see what comes of that.” Right? And invariably something wonderful will. Or not.

Thea:                                         16:34                       Or not. You know, I think there’s something that’s really to be said for just a question in those moments rather than a gesture of wanting to, to fix. ‘Cause Of course we want to see our kids happy. Of course we want to see them thriving. But this goes to the being comfortable in the discomfort. But when, when a child says “I’m bored,” you could simply say, “Tell me about it. What’s that like?” I mean age appropriate, let’s say, or “Oh, how so?” And you know, it gives them a moment to bring forth, what’s their mind’s state. And then they realize, “Oh, I’m actually not bored,” or “Telling you about it would be really boring, so I’m outta here.”

Anne:                                         17:22                       More likely. Right? Or, or you know, of course another tactic is, “You’re bored, there’s some clothes to fold over there. The kitchen needs cleaning,” and zoom, they are out the door. Right? Figure out something. But not to keep harping on this one, but, there’s a recent thing that happened. It was a few days ago, I think, you know, my son is a voracious reader and he gets lost in his books and and if he’s on one series or another, it can just be constant. And he had not picked up the book from the library that he had reserved. He had finished the other book and just, he’s all, you know, cranky and, and said something like, “I’m bored,” you know, “There’s nothing to do,” you know, and, and yeah, same tactic,”Oh, well,” you know. And out of that, that day, I remember, came two poems. He, he, he found his journal and he wrote a poem and a haiku. Right? That really stuck with me like, “Good. You have to be bored.”

Thea:                                         18:24                       Yeah. To create. Out of suffering is born creation. Really. Sometimes at least. And was there another point we were going to make?

Anne:                                         18:38                       Well, well if you have another one and I’m looking at a time, we’re trying to keep this nice and short. One was about you know, I’d, I had said to you, I said, “I don’t give handouts.” Right? I don’t mean, I don’t mean when I say that honestly I have given money. I used to give money all the time in the street. I’m not even talking about that. I do that much less. Occasionally I do when I’m struck. Right? But more friends and family members, right? Who I will see a pattern with, of asking for, for money, you know, material support. Repeatedly. Right? It’s something that I am not inclined to do unless there is a very good reason for me to believe that this is actually going to help them on their way, and it’s not going to be a crutch to keep them stuck in their stuckness. And you had made a point you had said, well…

Thea:                                         19:51                       I had said, you know, I find you to be quite generous with your time and your resources in terms of just wanting to put them into good use and movement. And I think what it drew forth in our conversation was there is, you know, there is a time for straight generosity. I mean, just out of the goodness of one’s being to see someone who has no comfort, to give comfort, right? That that is, that’s a reasonable thing. And then when you have people that you’re in relationship with that, that necessitates a different holding of how we share our resources of time, energy, money, whatever you want to say. And I think what we identified was, when there is striving, and an energy of movement and growth within someone who is in a hard place. When that striping is there. I mean, we could talk about that, as they’re already building a momentum around themselves by the effort itself, whatever that is. That is where it is much simpler to give support because it’s taken up, and it is in movement already. A.

Anne:                                         21:07                       And it is utilized. We talked about, I put it as if someone is able to receive the gift productively, I want to give and give and give as much as I can. And am grateful to participate in that person’s…

Thea:                                         21:30                       Development, freedom, liberation.

Anne:                                         21:31                       Absolutely. But I am but, but on the contrary when someone repeatedly is…Sorry I, I don’t want to get too much into it right now, but…

Thea:                                         21:50                       Well, I think what that is, is there’s a difference in when it goes into something and it starts to––I, I can see it in my mind––it moves and then there is something that has a stuckness. So this is a little bit of a distinguishing between the practices of parenting and what we’re trying to do with our children with Benign Neglect. To build resilience means when you are in a stuck place, you have the capacity to take whatever you can get your hands on to help you build that resilience towards something better, you know, to get out of your own suffering. And when you don’t have that faith in yourself, you don’t have that practice of taking a situation that’s difficult, even with the generosity of others, you don’t have your feet to stand on, to step to another level of being in yourself.

Anne:                                         22:54                       Yes. Yes. And that wraps, let’s wrap it up because that ties all the way back to the beginning, which is why it is critical with our children that we allow them to develop that faith in themselves, because if they don’t, every step we take in our lives moves us in one direction or another, each step. Right? And so if they don’t have that faith from the beginning or you know, and of course we can get it and learn it and be challenged with very trying situations. But if it keeps being reinforced that they get rescued out of whatever situation it is and don’t ever develop that muscle and really that faith in themselves, then gosh, at 50 years old, at 60 years old, they still will not be able to use that, those generous gifts from others to really make it on their own because they will never found that faith in themselves.

Thea:                                         23:57                       And I would, you know, make it on their own. Yes. But I would even say, I mean, what are each of us here for? You know, what I hold, anyway, is that for each of us to uncover what it is that we have within our being’s destiny, to bring to the world, to work with in the world and to leave into the world. And if I as a person am robbed of my own struggle to discover what it is I’m here to bring to the world, then it’s a disservice to myself and to humanity, all of life, you know, on that light note. But that’s, that’s how I see it, you know, because yes, we can go forth even when we’re handicapped and we can find the tools and build the muscle with right opportunity. I mean I think each of us has found the same sort of challenges come our way until we find a new way to meet them. And so it does come, there is a wisdom in all of creation to bring it to us.

Anne:                                         25:12                       Yes! We don’t miss our, yeah, the opportunities continue to circle around to us throughout our lives, right? But we need to be able to find that faith in ourselves one way or another and find our path.

Thea:                                         25:33                       Yes. And as parents, you know, if we can hold that task with reverence and sincerity and meaning, like, and real respect for how powerful this work is, you know, to know how important that work is. To go forth into it. So, you know, all of that for all of us in these relationships with our children, with each other to be able to build more freedom for each other through–don’t want to say mindful, but it is mindful–through really holding respect for one another. I think that’s ultimately what it comes down to in a way.

Anne:                                         26:22                       I think you are right, because having true respect for someone–again, we’ve touched on this–does also follow that we have the confidence in them, in their capacity, in their largeness and capacity. So every time we hold back from fixing or lifting them before they’re ready, we are, we are demonstrating a deep respect for our children, for our partners, for our friends.

Thea:                                         26:57                       Yes. Absolutely. Thank you so much.

Anne:                                         27:00                       Thank you. See you next time.

Thea:                                         27:02                       See you later.

Anne:                                         27:03                       Alright. Let me end this.