It’s Not Your Mother’s Fault

It’s Not Your Mother’s Fault

Vol. I Issue #1

This is the first is a series of columns that will appear on Alan’s Blog about the self-limiting beliefs we consciously and unconsciously allow to undermine our lives and success. I will reproduce this elsewhere, but the original columns will begin their lives here on contrarianconsulting.com.

Think of Cher in “Moonstruck” slapping Nicholas Cage twice, shouting, “Get over it!” or Bob Newhart in his famous skit as a therapist advising his patient, “Stop it!”

We spend inordinate amounts of money on problematic therapy sessions trying to eradicate “baggage” that we believe is affecting our ability to perform, to maintain relationships, to deal effectively with life’s vicissitudes. But we might as well hire an exorcist. (I asked the then-president of the American Psychological Association, who was on my advisory board at a former company, why there was such a high incidence of suicide among psychologists. “Because,” he replied without hesitation, “we attract many troubled people who are trying to work out their own issues.”)

In other words, their mothers were also wreaking havoc with them.

But it’s not your mother’s fault.

My observations of successful people and struggling people feature this omnipresent distinction: Successful people help themselves. They are not professional victims; they don’t present themselves as hopelessly entrapped by their nurturing; they create positive change for themselves.

Some people can stop smoking, some can’t. Some people can lose weight, some can’t. Some people comfortably address audiences, some can’t. Some people can control their nerves and fears, some can’t. The distinction isn’t in one’s DNA, or toilet training, or being part of a village to raise the child. (It takes loving parents or even a single parent to raise a child, not a village or other municipality.)

The distinction is in one’s self-discipline, organization, and resolve; in one’s self-accountability. Support systems are wonderful, as are loving families, but the primary support system is between your ears. To claim that you were scarred early, or can’t work in certain environments, or need special attention to get by, is usually just an excuse not to change, grow, or mature. You might as well say, “The devil makes me do it.”

Once you reach adulthood, with a basic education, an ability to examine the environment around you, and the advantage of witnessing what works for others (hard work, learning new skills, forging relationships, etc.), you should be able to “get over it” and “stop” whatever it is that’s impeding you. If others have, you can. If you don’t and won’t, then you have only yourself to blame.

It’s not your mother’s fault.

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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12 Responses to It’s Not Your Mother’s Fault

  1. Peter McLean says:

    My wife loved this so much she had to send it on to her sister, as she said it perfectly summed up some of the things they’d been saying over the past few weeks. Thanks Alan!

  2. Alan Weiss says:

    Thanks for writing. It got to a point where I had to write this.

  3. Rene' Vidal says:

    You wrote what is to me the most powerful line, declaration, etc. in Thrive! when you stated: “There are more successful, better known people than I, but I have come farther than most..” Thank you for exemplifying a life without limitations and ‘metaphysical doors.’

  4. Pat says:

    Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell did illustrate how what may be call burdens affect a perception one may have of oneself and thus his or her ability to be aware of his or her options. One needs to become aware of the burden (nuturing) before it can be removed or concorded. Once aware, a person can grow beyond thinking it is someone elses fault and gain the knowledge and power to move beyond it and be successful.

    Nurture versus Nature is such an interesting topic. Both affect the success of the individual. You may want to be very successful in one area but lack the natural ability to do so (not everyone can be an astronut or a basketball player).

    Nurturing to the affect of providing the encouragement as you grow up to be successful has a great deal of affect on someone’s success. Even if you really want to be successful and read all the books, find all the right people, if you come from a poor nurturing environment, it may take a bit longer.

    Agreed, you can blame your mother for your lack of success. It takes more than just reading and persistence. To deny the impact of the starting point (nurture and nature) is leaving you unaware and probably unsuccessful.

  5. As you know, I am helping myself quite nicely, thank you.

    Thing remains that if one was subjected to heavy abuse (psychological or otherwise), no amount of self help and talk is going to completely eradicate the scars.

    Not everything can be healed, some things ARE the abuser’s fault (who may happen to be your mother). And no amount of retribution will do anything to that, there will remain damage.

    This isn’t joining the professional victim bandwagon.

    Call me a contrarian :-)

  6. Linda Varone says:

    I used to work in the mental health field and I agree with the then-president of the APA. I would guess about 80% of the people who go into the mental health field want to figure out their own families. The vast majority work things out and use their experience and insight to better understand and help others. That leaves about 20% who don’t/can’t work out their own issues. These run the gamut from those who are well-meaning but slighting “off” to practitioners with virulent personality disorders.

    As the saying goes: “When the going gets crazy, the crazy go professional.”

  7. Alan Weiss says:

    Thanks for your candor, Linda! I’ve know some excellent therapists, it’s a wonderful profession for those gifted to do it, and those who really need the help.

  8. I think many people’s image of psychotherapy is based on the old psychoanalytical model of therapy as reflecting on one’s life from toilet training forward. Many of us do therapy that is based on helping people develop techniques and strategies for living more satisfing and fulfilling lives. The issue isn’t how one came to be struggling, but what they are going to do about it. Blaming one’s past does not help us learn how to live well today. Sometimes, however, people need help learning how to just “stop it!”

  9. Arun Kumar MK says:

    Alan,
    I must admit that this is a short but very wonderful post. Many mental health counselors are themselves badly in need of counseling. Having been in this field I know that there are some outstanding counselors who seem to have sorted out their own issues. But there are equally many of them who are yet to come out of their baggage. ‘Get over it’, ‘Stop it’ etc. are some good warning messages to people/some of us who have been brooding over the same thing again and again.

  10. Alan Weiss says:

    Many have brought up, in reaction to my article, the fact that various illnesses or physical and emotional abuse can cause issues requiring varied intervention. Too often we look for the “holes” in an argument rather than the solidity. We are too quick NOT to take accountability, too eager to be blind to our own flaws and needs. We have become a society where victimization is a profession.

    I think therapy is most effective when you’re doing well and need some perspective, so that you don’t merely breathe your own exhaust. But please don’t tell me you can’t address a group or organize your closet because of your upbringing. You’re an adult now, learn how to do it.

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