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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 23-Mar-07


Friday 23-January-07

Child is mother to the man

I've been having problems with my teenage son of late, as per moans in recent blogs (Reality blindness, Teenage trouble, etc.). My 25-year-old daughter has also been upset by his antics but, in her inimical manner, has been thinking deeply about it.

Recently, she sent me the following email (copied here with permission):

Here is a lecture about my head and how I think my brother and I are quite similar.

From knowing my own head, I believe that when real life is too difficult to deal with, you can easily become deeply involved in a particular concept, which portrays life as more dramatic and black and white, such as the internet, or in my case, Buffy/gothic idea. This simplified model of the world makes everything easier to deal with and builds up your ego (as your self esteem is much lower in real life) by painting you as the central character and hero. You want very much for your life to be like that and so act accordingly, including treating other people as stereotyped characters in your imagined play (like parents not caring about the tragic hero - he is all alone).

You start imagining (if you're intelligent and have a great imagination) such dramatic/glamorous and 'life-threatening' events, where there are villains and you are both the victim and hero. But if you're not careful, the line between your imagination and reality blurs and the story you tell to yourself over and over again almost makes the event 'true'. It is made even more true when you tell other people, as if it is said out loud, it must be true.

I'm not saying I've ever told you any silly stories, but sometimes I've wondered whether certain events in my life when I've not been too happy really happened or if I just made them up to make myself feel better.

Anyway, I'm still the drama queen at times, but going to uni/leaving home makes me realise that you can't live life like that, as your parents may humour you, but no-one else will stand for it.

She has a wise head on still-young shoulders, partly born of an honest self-perception, and the email struck me deeply. It tallies with psychoanalytic theory and made great sense. I showed it to my son, who read it slowly. Nodding, he handed it back and said, 'Yup. That's about it.' With fingers crossed I hope it has helped him towards an awakening in time to save at least his education.

There is a saying somewhere (the Bible?) that 'Child is father to the man'. It appeared on an album cover when I was a teenager and I though 'Yeah!'. Now I know more of the truth of it though, in my daughter's case, it is more a case of 'Child is mother to the man.'

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