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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Over Anxiety

I was in meeting in Tucson Arizona last Sunday. My wife and I were down watching our grandchildren.  The teacher talked about Larry Y. Wilson’s talk “Only upon the Principles of Righteousness.”  The content was very impressive. One of the phrases in this article that caught my attention was:
Wise parents prepare their children to get along without them. They provide opportunities for growth as children acquire the spiritual maturity to exercise their agency properly.
Letting go of a child, or any other loved-one, allowing them to experience consequences can be very difficult.

As a mental health professional people understanding and living by this concept alone would reduce my business by 1/2 -  The other half would be reduced if the Internet disappeared.  That’s right no codependence and no porn and I’d be looking for another job!

An individual becoming so preoccupied and worried about someone else’s salvation is a major contributor to emotional distress, like depression.  For some reason this is a terribly difficult principle to teach-and to live. How to you teach an individual “the line” where nurturing and direction stops and agency and independence begins? And at what age and for what behavior?

These are very difficult questions for even the most competent person.

Jacob talks about his “firmness in the Spirit” being “shaken” and “stumbling” because “My over anxiety for you.”  (Jacob 4:18) To me this suggests as Jacob was preaching to the wicked Nephites against sexual concerns  he was aware  of  “the line” – on one side he was fulfilling his responsibility as a prophet and on the other side if not careful he could become so preoccupied and worried about (over anxiety) saving the Nephites he might jeopardize his own salvation!  Typically, the side of the line seeking control is viewed dysfunctional and referred to as “Codependency.”

Codependency has a variety of characteristics.  A couple of these characteristics include: desire to control another and placing a lower priority on one's own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others. Typically, attempts to control or force another person builds resentment and conveys mistrust and makes the other person feel incompetent. Codependency affects an individual's ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship and prevents the other person from developing self-reliance and self-confidence.
Here’s a quick example. Recently, parents disclosed they found their very young children engaged in some inappropriate sexual play while bathing together.  The initial and correct response is of course intervening and not let them bath together.  That solves the problem right?
Well not exactly.  

If the parents seek “control” and simply "stop" the behavior, they will forgo recognizing the children’s capacity to learn and to exercise agency.  If the parents choose to develop a healthy relationship with the children and teach them “correct principles and they govern themselves” (See: Teach Them Correct Principles, by Boyd K. Packer)  they might consider an alternative approach.
I coached the parents to  help the young children develop self-reliance by doing a few things. First, do not allow them to bath together again until THE CHILDREN decide they are capable to control their touching behavior.  Second, the father (or mother) educates EACH CHILD privately about the sacredness of the body and clearly instructs them about “good and bad” touch. Third, the father (or mother) expresses complete confidence to EACH CHILD privately in his/her ability to control their future touching behaviors. Fourth, the father (or mother) follows-up with EACH CHILD privately every few days on how that specific child is doing in developing confidence in controlling his/her touching behavior. During this time the parents continue to encourage, educate and express faith.  Fifth, assuming the parents' impression is agreeable, allow the children to bath together alone at least one or two times. Of course this is done with a door open, occasional monitoring and post bathing interviews. Finally, do not let the children bath together. They're probably getting to old.
Using this approach, imagine the tremendous learning that occurs with these children as they learn to control their touching behavior and they are given with an expression of confidence an opportunity to succeed (or fail).
The importance of this lesson for future teenage years are easily seen. 

An eternal principle
If parents hold on to ALL decision-making power and see it as their ‘right’ they severely limit the growth and development of their children.
                         Larry Y. Wilson “Only upon the Principles of Righteousness.”
                                                                                                 dr rick