Thursday, June 23, 2016

Trained Disappointment

Is dashing your expectations a common trait of hoarding parents, without even referring to the hoard itself?

This was something that I used to discuss in therapy and became acutely aware of how this was a chronic behavior by my parents, almost taking delight in finding ways to disappoint me.

So I have tried to be aware of warning signs when I feel a disappointment building. Sometimes I better at doing this than others.

Complaining in the Home
My parents are now living in a two bedroom apartment in an independent living facility. After being there a year, my father started to complain to me on our weekly phone calls. He would say things like:
"It's boring here."
"They don't give us enough activities."
"They don't listen to my suggestions."
"Hardly anyone attends the lectures they provide, and I'm the only one to ask questions."
I heard this week after week and I tried to keep a thick skin and not get involved. The complaining continued. Finally, I said, "Would you like to get more information about independent living facilities near where I live?"
"Yes I would," said my father.

Getting Involved
I repeated my question a few times to make sure that he really wanted me to round up some information for him. "No pressure," I said, "after I send you the information we can discuss it and see what is missing, if you actually want me to visit any of these facilities for you."
Geographically I live very far from my parents, a long plane-ride away, so if this happened it would be a big move.
My father reassured me that he wanted me to gather up the information. "Don't send it by fax," he said, "try to mail it."
They did not use email and barely used the internet. He was concerned that the people in the facility he was living in would see the fax come in before delivering it to him. I reassured him that I would send the information in a printed letter (snail mail).

I had spoken to a few advisors in my area on good options for independent living arrangements. I put the information into an Excel file and printed it up and sent it off.

At our weekly phone call, my father didn't mention anything about receiving any mail from me. I waited another week. Again no mention. Then another week. I saw he wasn't going to be forthcoming. "So did you get my letter with information about independent living options in my area?"
"Oh yes," he said.
"What this week? Recently?"
"No," he said, "two weeks ago."
"Ok," I said, "do you have any questions, do you want additional information, do you want me to visit any of these places."
"No, no that won't be necessary."
"Uh, ok," I said, "anything else?"
"No, no, we like it here, we had a nice dinner tonight."
He stopped complaining about the place, didn't ask me any more about options in my area, and didn't talk about even considering leaving the independent living facility anymore.

A few weeks later I was talking to my mother. She complained a little and expressed concern, about the possibility if my father were to pass away before her. "Well I sent a letter with information about options in my area, would you like to discuss it?"
"Yes I would," said my mother.
"Do you have the letter with you?"
"I think it's here somewhere."
"Can you ask Dad?"
"I'm asking him, but he's not here."
"Where is he?"
"He just walked out."
The letter never turned up and nothing was discussed.

Kind of like this:

Do you encounter chronic episodes of disappointment or dashed expectations from your parents?

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