Bad Advice

Many years ago a friend of mine who lived in San Francisco, California was going through a tough time. He was pursuing a career in the arts, against his parents’ wishes. He was approaching the age of thirty, doing fairly well, but not making much of a living. Naturally, he had to take other jobs in order to get by. His parents were concerned about him, but tried to avoid lecturing or criticizing him for following what they thought was a pipe dream.

Because he knew they were not proud of his achievements, he only talked to them once a month – they lived several hundred miles away. And following each phone call, he felt badly about himself. So, he was starting to feel a little bit depressed.

After a lot of urging by a close friend, he agreed to join a therapy group. At that time alternate styles of therapy were popular in the Bay Area of California, and the therapy group he joined was one such. It was called “radical therapy”. The therapist did things somewhat differently from the way other practitioners did. 

After a few months in the group, the therapist identified a pattern in my friend’s attitude and behavior. She told him that she didn’t think he had a serious emotional problem. It was just that each time he talked to his mom, he felt downhearted. So, she suggested he take six months off from talking to her. He took the therapist’s advice, and at the next phone call he told his mom that he needed a break, because of his feelings of inadequacy each time they talked.

It should be said that his mom never criticized my friend or guilt-tripped him, or told him that he needed to grow up and get serious. Still, he felt unhappy, because his successes, while respectable, did not impress his dad.

After the six months had passed, my friend resumed talking to his parents, but he found that the hiatus did nothing to help the situation. He still felt badly after the phone calls. Eventually, the therapist asked him to exit the group, because he had no major issues, and she needed to make room for a more needy client.

As years went by, I began to question the advice my friend had received, and concluded the therapist was out of line. The only thing that was accomplished by the six month hiatus was to make the mother and dad feel hurt. They weren’t being mean or abusive. They were just concerned, and in their eyes, for good reasons. 

Unfortunately, some parents act very differently toward their kids – even their adult kids – when they disagree with them. Many of my clients have reported that their parents are abusive, toxic, and have made their  lives miserable. In such a situation, I hasten to say that, while I will do everything I can to help them deal with this difficulty – say, with a narcissistic parent – I will never suggest that my client should disrespect his mother or father. There are other ways deal with these situations.

Certainly in extreme cases, creating a lot of distance from the toxic person is necessary. However, in my friend’s case, that was not called for. His therapist acted on insufficient information, she over-reacted and she gave very bad advice.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of bad advice – perhaps more than once – and have you learned from that experience? If not, it may be time to get some input from an expert. This is an area where I could be of service. So, if you are ready to do this work, please feel free to reach out. The number is (219) 309-3928. It would be an honor to be of service.

For further thoughts click Stand Up For Yourself

Thanks for reading!