by Ron Houssaye, LMFT, SASA, licensed psychotherapist
No matter how devoted, few of our parents were able to respond perfectly to all of our needs. We all had some parts of our childhood that were tough, even perilous. Every child experiences a “primitive anxiety” that the world is not a safe place.
There’s a group that was created for adults with emotional scars from childhood, and those who are recovering attest that their scars are healing. The group is Adult Children of Alcoholics. I was a member for nine years and I can tell you that during those years I uncovered my own wounds, many of which are healed.
I no longer worry too much about what people think of me. I no longer spend my weekends feeling I must go out and party to feel accepted. Instead, I can stay in and read a good book, or go out to dinner with someone, then come home to my nest. It’s because I now feel secure inside, so the outside doesn’t matter as much. In short, I no longer fester in the wounds of my childhood.
As a therapist, I know that people enter relationships with the expectation that their partners will magically restore to them a feeling of wholeness. For those of my readers who may be in that category, I recommend this book: Getting the Love You Want, by Dr. Harville Hendrix. He explains The Imago, which is the psychic image inside each of us that leads us to our “perfect partner,” although that unconscious mental picture is merely a composite of the positive and negative characteristics of our parents.
Once in the relationship, when we are beyond the romance stage of about six months, the chickens come home to roost, so to speak, and we must confront the reality that our partner is flawed in many ways we did not see before.
Then often begins the call for healing inside both people in the relationship. If they seek help and don’t blame each other for the psychic aches inside them they can make it.
So don’t give up when you realize your parents weren’t perfect. None of ours were, that’s for sure.
I know I risk putting my readers to sleep writing about my vacation. Please, should I bore you, write and let me know. I will come to your home and personally apologize. Or, since the demands of my counseling practice may prevent such a visit, I will send you an apology via email instead.
Let me begin with “Oh Canada Eh!” It is Canada’s longest running dinner musical and it is squeaky clean. It’s a high-energy show, too, featuring over 70 songs, with colorful characters from Canadian Legend, most memorably a stalwart, virtuous mountie, a frontiersman, along with wholesome fair damsels and frisky barmaids.
Here’s the truly amazing part of our experience. Both myself and my lovely wife each suddenly became part of the show!
I was invited up when one golden-haired maiden walked from her place on stage into the audience, right up to our table and, smiling, she faced me. She wanted me to waltz with her, as the music began to swell. I had a choice: freeze, and thereby chicken out, or stand up and accept her invitation. Thankfully, I managed to call up the guts to accept. I stood to my feet and we began to waltz. I was so glad for those ballroom dancing classes I had taken, over fifteen years before.
Arleen, my extremely understanding wife, didn’t grimace with ill humor, as some wives would have. Perhaps she was as stunned as I. But how could I resist such an offer, to be a ham actor one more time?
It had been several years since I was on a theatrical stage. Specifically, it was the winter of 2011. I was cast in a play called “Someone to Watch Over Me,” in which I played an Oxford Professor of Old English Studies, who was kidnapped off the streets of Lebanon, then chained and thrown into prison. Needless to say, I didn’t resist this opportunity. I ordered the ham, which was me.
It was only for less than a minute that we danced under the soft spotlight. I then sat down and heard the people applauding us. Just think if I had ordered chicken instead of ham!
Several minutes passed. From the stage a mountie strode down from his place and faced Arleen, just as the maid had done to me. He took her hand. He then sang to her in a manly baritone voice, swept her off of her feet, then returned to his fantasy life onstage. We knew this wonderful cast had concocted this turn of events: nor would it have been right if Arleen had not been given her moment in the spotlight.
Only one of our Canadian vacation experiences was more memorable. It was the special time we had with our Canadian friends, Carol and Wayne, whom we had met on a Princess Cruise some years before. Were were with them for two full days. They graciously gave us a personal tour of Toronto, taking us first to High Park and then to Toronto Islands, a chain of islands just a ferry ride away from the mainland. It was windy but pleasant the day we visited. Just talking intimately with our friends, on a wood table at the Toronto Islands, was the best my memories hold of that trip.
Now let me briefly share with you the excitement of the Hornblower boat ride, which took us and fifty other people right up to the edge of Niagra Falls itself. I ventured with my Samsung Galaxy S8 camera to “the edge of doom” and I survived, not really risking life and limb to capture the rush and surge of the falls close up on my device. It was a very sturdy craft, to be sure, and staffed with a fine crew of mates, both women and men.
So what did Canadians think of America at the time we were there in the summer of 2018? Not anything different than what they’d always thought—we were their “good neighbors,” tariffs or no tariffs. Our friends had to admit they were scratching their heads about what was coming out of Washington at that time, but we avoided politics as much as possible.
I loved what I’d read that the Canadian actor, Ryan Gosling, said about American-Canadian relations: “Americans are starting to notice that there is a place called Canada, that we’re not just America’s hat.” Ryan was hard-pressed to explain to the interviewer why he was the current mega-heartthrob, considered by many American women as “the perfect boyfriend.” It remains something less than a deep mystery.
So ends my first vacation tale. Perhaps we will visit Europe again soon and I’ll write about that. For now, please let me know what did not bore you about this post. I would love to hear from you.