My late father and I had a very trying relationship. He was a proud man with a stoical tendency to keep all his thoughts and emotions hidden on the inside. Growing up, this was extremely frustrating to me because whenever I would do something that annoyed him he would subject me to the silent treatment – which was his (passive aggressive) way of making it painfully obvious that I’d let him down in some way.
It wasn’t very constructive because I had to constantly cast my mind back and retrace my steps in order to figure out what I did wrong (or what I didn’t do right).
I kept thinking, “Please talk to me. I can’t make it better or learn from the mistake if I don’t know exactly how I’ve disappointed you.”
Years later he confessed that he struggled with confrontation and had only ever held back in an effort to spare my feelings. And yet, tellingly, he generally withheld approval whenever I did manage to do something right or even well.
I later came to appreciate that he was a product of a culture and a generation that didn’t encourage people, particularly men, to articulate their feelings – so he didn’t have the tools to communicate his emotions.
I understood all that (later, as an adult) but it also struck me as a pity, because we were never able to cultivate an intimate parent/child bond or relationship – up until the day he died. I believe he did the best he could though – and that’s all I could have expected of him.
But this isn’t an article about my relationship with my dad. It is, however, inspired by people like him :
People who don’t quite know how to express themselves. People who struggle to put language to their emotions. People who are so afraid of saying the wrong thing that they’d rather not say anything at all. Folks who keep hiding their feelings until they fester and grow.
If this sounds like you, then I have some constructive tips that I’d like to share…