The following thought may take a more circuitous route to clarity than is helpful, but it seemed amazing to me, at least initially. Right now I am making my way through a book by James Breech, The Silence of Jesus. It is not that in this particular book I expected to find anything blog-oriented. (Understand that I come from somewhere between fundamentalist and evangelical Protestantism, more steeped in all things biblical than I am likely aware of). I was given the book and so felt I should work my way through it because it may counter some of the ideas I was exposed to in my actively protestant years. (I am also currently reading a detective novel, some tree and bird books, a Lewis Mehl-Madrona, The Unmade Bed, Goldacre’s Bad Science and two books on attachment theory.) Somehow I manage to find something about our relationship with Yasik in almost anything I read.
James Breech has made a study of the parables of Jesus, pulling out what he may have said from the cultural context and interpretation of those who recorded his words. Here’s the backstory. Breech is examining the story in the Gospel of Luke of the Good Samaritan. First he strips away what he considers are the trimmings in which Luke couches the story. It becomes simply a story of a man assaulted by robbers. Two people passing by do literally that, pass by, even crossing to the other side to do so. A third person comes along and having wine and oil, cleans the assaulted man’s wounds, puts him on his donkey or horse and takes him to an inn. As Traveler Three prepares to go on own his way, he instructs the innkeeper to take care of the wounded man and promises to settle whatever expenses are incurred when he next returns to the area. And then the good fellow continues on with whatever business brought him to the area.
A few years ago I chose to explain to myself why I am on earth by espousing the concept that we are each on a journey through life (yes, Joseph Campbell influenced). Traveler Three is on a journey that metaphors our individual life experiences. Breech suggests that Jesus’ point in this story is that a man with wherewithal shares with another in need to aid the wounded man on his particular journey. The phrase from Yasmin Mogahed’s thought of “It’s about what you can give others because you are full” now takes meaning of which I am less cynical. It was not the third person’s intention to go about helping people. In fact no motive for helping is offered other than obvious, immediate need. Traveler Three recognizes that harm has been done, but that does not need to be the end of the story. Because he has some medical supplies with him, he can reorient the story in a different direction, a better possibility. As Breech stresses, the storyteller is not asking his listeners to dwell on whether or not the victim recovers, just that Traveller Three takes care of what he can. He suggests that Jesus is telling this story to make the point that helping others on their equally valid journeys if at some point they need a boost is simply part of going forward each on our individual journey. We give that boost because we see ourselves as having enough to be free to share. So parents often adopt to aid another on his or her journey because they want to share (Note: there are lots of other reasons to adopt as well, just as there are other reasons for the choices of the other characters in the parable). But once we have offered aid in a difficulty we carry on with our own journey, assuming the other will be quite capable of also carrying on. Is this the “letting go” concept or the “moving on” concept we are encouraged to embrace over staying in a slumped tear-drenched heap of guilt?
At any rate, when I read the bit about Traveler Three taking care of what he could and then moving on with his own journey, I did not think it was about dusting my hands of my son, but I did feel some sense of release from guilt. Or maybe this essay is simply about Breech’s thought on the parable being a boost for me on my journey, helping me get back on my feet and enabling me to move forward. And actually thereby giving a boost to my son for in my giving into guilt, I am denying my son the respect that comes from believing he has yet within himself the strength to continue on his journey.
Yes we have taken on responsibility for a life. Yes we are ‘Parents Forever’ (see fgta.ca). But our hand-wringing guilt is not a boost to our child in his or her difficulties. The FGTA site would encourage parents to get past self blame for guilt does little more than sink a parent in a sodden heap or urge a parent to “cross the road to the other side and hurry on by” the problem. As FGTA encourages, there are helpful steps to be taken.
If the kindly advice, “Let Go” sometimes leaves the distraught parents bewildered for its frustrating vagueness when something is consuming their psychic energy, with respect to difficulties in adoptive relationships, perhaps a plan to stop enabling is meant by “letting go”. In terms of a broader scope of struggles, in You are Not Your Brain: the 4-step solution for changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life, Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D. and Rebecca Gladding, M.D.(p134) give four concrete directives:
Step 1: Relabel or call our negative thoughts and emotions what they are. Are they thoughts of continued enabling or guilt with how we have engaged with our child to this point? Perhaps we ‘Let Go’ of the way we are currently handling our situation with our child or our guilt for our past failures by ‘Relabeling’ our situation with our child.
Step 2: Reframe or look at why these thoughts and emotions are bothering us. Give our situation some analysis; come to a new perspective.
Step 3: Refocus or redirect our attention to an action or thought that is healthy and maybe kind forgiveness of ourselves.
Step 4: Revalue or recognize that the negative messages that, as Mindfulness training aims to demonstrate, are merely passing thoughts or emotions that will vapourize as we choose to move in another more positive direction.
There is no passivity here, waiting for a hard-to-visualize god to come and zap us with a new life; there is us pulling ourselves out of the abject slump on the floor, and walking toward a better activity or thought.