Granted, there was some lightheartedness to it, but when the author of a book called Boundaries, calls you a flaming codependent, it gets your attention. During the years that I was in his counselor training program, I was really pressing into a certain area of growth, especially as it relates to leadership – worrying less what people think of me. “Fear God and not man,” I would tell myself, and still do. I kept bumping into this reality that you can’t effectively lead people if you worry too much about them liking you. As a pretty empathetic person, my tendency is not only to sense what others are feeling but also to work hard to keep them feeling good, comfortable. So when John called me out that day, he was shedding light on my excessive desire to please others and to be liked.
Paradoxically, when we tiptoe around others’ feelings because of our own inability to tolerate their disappointment or sad, hurt feelings, we often do much more harm than good. Just today, I had a conversation with a couple of employees where I had to own that I still sometimes avoid giving hard truth. Instead, I try to give hope, offer solutions, or brainstorm, only to delay the inevitable reality that I can’t always make things okay. Sometimes we need to face harsh realities and grieve losses. Sometimes we need to acknowledge our own rescuing or enabling behaviors. Sometimes we need to say “no.”
It’s the same thing for us as parents, too. It’s not always easy to remain firm in the face of protests or tears. We may grow weary of the battle or begin to question our decisions. We kick the can down the road by temporarily relieving the pain but not really tending to the problem or pattern that drives it. You are not alone and there is help. Don’t face the wearying parental battles on your own strength. It’s okay to call in the strength of a team and to let others in on your sense of helplessness. This may mean having an honest conversation with a safe friend. Or it may mean calling a professional. Either way, if you’re like many, it’s likely long overdue to reach out and get the help and support you need.
Mike Haarer is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the state of Indiana. He has worked in the field of adolescent residential treatment since 2004 when he began at White’s Residential & Family Services serving court-ordered adolescents in residential treatment through Indiana’s Department of Child Services. Initially, he specialized in the area of sexually maladaptive behaviors and was a Credentialed Sexually Abusive Youth Clinician. Mike studied under Psychologist and Author Dr. John Townsend, completing three years of his Counselor Training Program concentrated on emotion-focused, character-based Psychodynamic psychotherapy. He is working on his Ph.D. in Counselor Education & Supervision at Regent University in Virginia Beach and has served as an adjunct professor at Huntington University’s Graduate Counseling program. Mike presents on a variety of topics at local, regional, and national conferences and trains residential staff on Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. He has served as the Executive Director of Compass Rose Academy since its founding in 2012 and lives on the Wabash, Ind. campus along with his wife, Emily, and two daughters, Corabelle and Olivia.