There is a time and place for tough love. You know, the kind of encouragement that comes with some grit and gruffness. The attempt to push past what's been holding you back. The "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" talk. I have and continue to see the benefit in this type of love in its tough exterior. When boundaries need to be set and held, when you've reached the enough is enough place, when the cuddling compassion has turned to coddling. Like I said, there is a time and place for more direct, less soft support.
I have recently learned that tough love, even when used with the best of intentions, can cause more harm than help. Sometimes Tough Love just isn't Love.
My Dad died just over three months ago. He dealt with depression for a long time and eventually succumbed to it by taking his own life. I saw him strive to be better, do better, rise from his difficulties. A lot of the time, this came in the form of judgment and harshness rather than compassion and comforting his wounded parts. I saw him try to just "suck it up" and surpass the struggles that kept him hostage for the majority of his life. To be frank, there were times I met him with the same type of tough love he brought to himself. Sometimes it helped, more of the time I think it just added to the hurt. What he needed was understanding and acceptance and patience.
Getting fed up with the status quo can definitely lead to being more harsh. I am catching myself in this more than ever these days. It seems that grief is bringing me front and center with my own wounds, the harsh places in me that say "just figure this out already." In times where harsh comes more quickly than compassion, this is the time I probably need it the most.
Do you relate?
My sister recently reminded me that there are seasons to push and seasons to let what is be. Right now, as much as I want to be somewhere other than here, feeling what I'm feeling, facing what I'm facing, right here is where I am. Pushing through and judging what's happening is causing pain, something I don't need any more of. The idea that just sucking it up and powering through would make anything better is an illusion. This idea, this hope and fantasy that affirming my way out of incredible grief and disillusionment is possible or would make me more safe, secure, comfortable, is pervasive in our society. The truth is, my job right now is to just be. Staying afloat is enough. What I am, what I have, what I bring is enough. For now. In all reality, just being is preparing the path for what's next... even if I can't see it.
This isn't to say I am okay with staying where I am. Not at all. Fighting doesn't yield results though. Acceptance, understanding, and starting fresh again and again does. Before getting back up, it might just be warranted to stay down and rest for a bit. Navigating grief, feeling sadness, needing more quiet, these are asking to be honored. For now.
Drowning in depression is a fear I have, especially with the turn of events that happened with my Dad. The truth is, I have resources and am using them. I have tools he didn't have. I am not him. Toughing it out and trying to bypass this process of initiation, growing up, grieving is an act of dishonor to myself and him. Feeling is important. Whether I like it or not, I am right where I need to be. In the midst of all this, I also have responsibilities and commitments that require me to show up. Life doesn't stop because someone died. In fact, more has happened in the past three months than I could have anticipated.
I have to show up. I get to show up. Maybe not 100%, maybe not with the enthusiasm I'd like to, maybe with inner judgment that's annoying and distracting; even still, I show up. Just as I am. No force or harshness needed. Things are tough enough without adding more.
I wish things were different. I wish my Dad was still here. I wish I could tap into hope and passion in ways I have before. As much as I've tried, it turns out tough loving my way into a new mindset or place isn't working. Compassion is. The thing that is hardest to muster right now is exactly what I need.
Where is in your life are you bringing impatience rather than understanding?
Is tough love taking the driver seat when something else might really help you more?
What would it take for you to give up the push to do more, be different, the drive to change what is?
When in doubt, choose love. Love is the way. Sometimes gentle, sometimes subtle, sometimes bolder, sometimes playful. Tuning into what the most tender parts of you need will guide you, all you have to do is listen and look. If you need support, there is plenty of it here in the Reinvention & Recovery Community and with me. Reach out, you are never alone.
With Huge Heart & Hope,
As an advocate of Reinvention + Recovery, I work with clients to achieve balance, alignment and purpose in all areas