Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
Patricia (23): “My mother doesn’t show much interest in me. Instead of just talking about herself, she should pay more attention to me. How could I achieve this?”
Ingrid: I once read somewhere that there are only two problems. Either there is something that you don’t want, or you want something that isn’t there. Of course this is slightly oversimplified, but there is something to it. You have a problem because you want attention from your mother. And that isn’t there.
There is a thought or a story swirling around in your head that is causing tension. The story that your mother should take a greater interest in you is a drama that your brain is creating. If you believe this story – and obviously you do – you get irritated and the image that you have of your mother becomes muddled. You can no longer see the person that she actually is, with her shortcomings but also with her qualities.
“Turn it around,” suggests American author Byron Katie. Separate yourself from your story and see if the opposite of what you think could also be true. That takes courage. So, Patricia, I should show more interest in my mother, could that also be true? Think of examples of times when this was true. Did you really listen to her when she told you in detail about having dinner with the neighbours? And did you enquire about the weekend away that she spent with her sister? Turn it around. There is yet another way: I should be more interested in myself. Does that have a ring of truth to it? I think it does, because if you had more interest in yourself – took good care of yourself or however you want to see it - you wouldn’t need your mother’s attention so badly.
Investigating reversals pushes you out of the role of the victim and forces you to take charge. The if-you-want-to-change-the-world-then-start-with-yourself idea. In the framework of the learning therapy that I did for my study, I myself reversed all my stressing thoughts and judgements for a whole week. About my father, mother, exes, partner and darling son. It was not always easy to discover that I, the proverbial pot, called the kettle black. It made me milder. Another positive result of investigating all those reversals is that I no longer iron (I hate ironing). It is no longer necessary. The reversal of ‘I have to iron’ appeared to be just as true.