My problem is that my 36-year-old son and 59-year-old sister have both fallen on hard times and moved in with me. I am trying to help them by allowing them to live with me at no cost so they can get on their feet, but to no avail! I have been told I have the patience of a saint, but an old friend once told me “patience is a virtue, but sometimes it can hurt you”, and that’s where I am right now. I cannot afford to support these people. I am unemployed and the cost of living is taking every penny of my retirement savings, which is almost totally depleted. I don’t have the heart to throw my son or sister out on the street, but if this is not resolved soon, we will all be in a homeless shelter!!
How do I inspire/motivate my son and sister to get on their own two feet? ? I don’t have the knowledge to manipulate them into doing what they need to do to grow up.
Beth GA, USA
Hope is insight. The only way out is in. If a storm is brewing and it’s in your own home it’s time to button down the hatches. Did you know when hurricane Katrina hit many people underestimated the potential danger and refused to leave town? The result included unnecessary loss of life and great tragedy. The result also produced miraculous rescues.
Can you see the parallel I am beginning to draw? Here is a unique story to help further illuminate the connection to your question.
Among those who chose to stay behind, as Katrina hit, included people of all ages and walks of life. One of which, was a retired veteran, who happened to own a small motorboat. Finding himself dangerously imprisoned, by rising water levels, he abandoned his home, as soon as it was safe to do so, hopped in his boat and rescued himself.
As he was motoring through the flooded streets he heard cries sounding from the rooftops. The voices belonged to desperate, scared and helpless residents who were yelling for their lives. Among those he saved included a 73 year-old man, living on his own, a brand new infant baby and mother.
I ask you, based on the story above, was it stupidity that caused the veteran to confront Katrina? Or was it divinity? My answer is simple. It was both. This man was a saint and a fool.
Aren’t we all, a bit of each, in different life situations? He didn’t start by trying to be a saint rather he sat at home like the “fool” in oracle decks. In his innocence he was used to save others, by unintentionally risking his own life, thereby becoming the saint who saved lives.
If your innocent well-intentioned offer to house your family members has turned into a self-sacrificing insanity time to make a course redirect. Remember, if you are practicing sainthood the club of foolery isn’t far from the front door.
What caused the veteran to stay in his home even though, one of the largest storms predicted in the history of New Orleans, was about to hit his hometown?
I am going to presuppose the elements of denial and destiny, were at play. I am going to presuppose the same thing is happening in the “hurricane” of your household.
Here are a few ways to revamp your rescue mission by setting healthy relationship boundaries.
Step One: Moving out of Denial
To successfully transform your situation you must first move out of denial, on any and every level. Denial, the refusal to acknowledge the existence of something, typically, unpleasant facts is costly. Start by stating the facts. Put all your cards on the table, in private with yourself. Do this in writing.
Look at the area of finances. What is your current financial state? What can you give and not give? Come up with a realistic number per day, per week, per month, per year that you currently need for your personal living including household costs. Write it down.
Reevaluate your work. Do you enjoy what you are doing? Do you feel more alive after a days work? Would you do this type of work even if you didn’t get paid for it? If you answered no to any of the above it may be time to work on changing your career.
Next look in the area of your relationships. Start with the most important relationship first. That, as I see it, is you in relationship with you. What do you need to be happy? What are you not giving yourself that you need? What are you putting up with that is absolute nonsense? Why are you putting up with it?
Are you scared to be honest? Have confrontation? This may be one of the reasons you have created this dynamic. It is part of your purposeful growth, your destiny, to clean up some old boundary issues.
I recommend reading the book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care by Cheryl Richardson, to help you do this. Here you will be given the key steps needed to learn to put yourself first thereby leading you to get what you need and ultimately allowing you to give at greater capacities.
Have you ever noticed at the end of performance arts events it takes one person, then two people, then three, then four to create a room full of people on their feet giving a standing ovation?
I am standing and clapping for you. I am your biggest fan. I applaud your love, your courage, and your generosity. You are extremely selfless.
The difficulty comes when you forget that as a human, living in a world of duality, cuddled next to your selflessness is it’s opposite; selfishness. If you won’t claim your own selfishness those around you will.
It’s the nature of polarity. Be selfish. I know, I know it flies in the face of so many spiritual teachings. It may sound counter intuitive but, it’s actually practical and it works. Especially, when done consciously. Besides, you being selfish is still what many people consider giving. This may be your toughest homework.
The two feet, I suggest you find, which will give you the greatest happiness, are yours. Take a stand for your self. As you do others will change around you. It’s not manipulation. It’s called transmutation.
Next, learn to set boundaries.
Step Two: How to Set Healthy Boundaries
Healthy adult relationships are based on mutual give and take. Parent child relationships, when the child is the age of a dependent, are more of a one-way street. If I understand correctly both your son and sister are adults therefore the advice for boundary setting applies to adult relationships.
A river without boundaries is a flood. How do you rescue someone when you are drowning yourself? You don’t. What are the boundaries you need to set in place?
For a moment make this impersonal. Do not place emphasis on the stories, which seduce, confuse and sabotage your attempt to live balanced. Simply state your basic needs, to yourself. For example: I am sharing my living space I need two roommates who each pay X amount, take out the trash every Tuesday, clean up after themselves and respect me as I do them. We work through difficulty with ease and grace. I offer clear boundaries and make it easy for others to know what I will and won’t allow in my own home. Get the point? Make it specific. Once again, write it out.
One of the obstacles to setting healthy boundaries is fear. When we set new boundaries in place we also ignite the possible reality, of disappointing, displeasing and disrupting a current relationship. It may result in another becoming angry, withdrawn and rebellious. This is a part of life. We can’t control another’s response, life situation or path. If you truthfully want change you must be willing to work through confrontation and hold your ground.
Setting boundaries may also result in you receiving the exact support you need. Your clarity can also invoke, in another, the desire to abide, appreciate and honor you by going out of their way to uphold your wishes. Can you imagine this in your household? Start to see this happening for you. Crystallize a vision of yourself being cared for, nurtured and loved, just as you are. Not because you are the provider or pretending to provide at the expense of your safety and sanity.
There is a distortion that love is something we trade, like baseball cards. You do not need to sacrifice yourself to get love. This is an untrue, unconscious belief. You are loveable because you exist. Warts and all, it’s true.
Once you have established your boundaries your next step is to communicate compassionately, consciously and clearly.
Step Three: Communicate to Create the Outcome you Desire
Have you heard of Nonviolent Compassionate Communication (NVC)? If not, look it up on the internet. NVC is a basic four-step communication method, founded by Marshall Rosenberg, that can help teach you how to best communicate your message. I suggest the book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.
When we speak our body language, tone, emotions and energy speak the loudest. Words are the icing on the cake. If you are angry, frustrated and judgmental, in your communication, you will generate defensiveness and your message will fall on deaf ears. Notice your own energy. Are you attacking creating your audience as a helpless victim? Or are you speaking compassionately creating an ally to your efforts?
Lastly, take your written vision from step two, in it’s final version and speak it aloud. Practice by looking yourself in the eye in the mirror a few times before you do it aloud. Choose a safe friend to share with and practice again. Next, confront your roomies. As you communicate (before, during and after) see the most positive, empowered and conscious image of your son or sister in your mind’s eye. If they are feeling stuck or lost you can help by imagining them at their greatest. Holding both of them as capable competent creators is one of the greatest gifts you can offer.
This situation is not an easy one but it is one that is rich with growth, if you choose. I say, go for it! You deserve fantastic, uplifting, generous mutually beneficial relationships that bring out the best in you. Create it first with yourself. Give yourself an ovation. Their feet will stand in response. Truly, inspiring.
Thank-you for writing in to “Ask Alison”, may these words offer you peace, inspiration and healing. Let us know how it goes!