Yesterday I had a moment of transformation…and I learned a few lessons. I took responsibility for my life in a new way. After six decades of emotional unrest I put aside any hope for a loving relationship with my older brother.
My brother is highly intelligent and rarely has shown emotional empathy for anyone but himself. A chemist by profession he often uses cold, empirical logic to analyze situations and people. It’s as if he substitutes this kind of logic for any real interpersonal communication and sharing of affection.
After an embarrassing public incident a couple of years ago during a family wake I cut off communication with him. Recently I emailed him with a general apology for anything I may have said or done to cause him pain in the distant past. I had truly hoped this would open up the possibility for a more respectful and heartfelt communication.
He responded and asked to see me. As I approached his home I held in my hand a stone engraved with the word Hope. I was amazed at what happened next.
The meeting started off with a light-hearted discussion centered on the improvements he had made to his home and garden. But when we sat down, instead of encouraging a reasonable dialogue he launched into a list of what he perceived to be my character flaws. With all-knowing confidence he informed me that I was “narcissistic, inconsiderate, uncaring of people, dramatic, and totally lacking in empathy” and proceeded to offer examples for why all of this was true.
It was fascinating for me to view reality through his eyes of one who felt that I had been the emotional aggressor. After all I had already written a note of apology and fully realized I was not perfect. It came as a bit of a shock to hear him describe these “flaws” with the absolute judgment of unshakeable reality. I felt like the proverbial “sinner in the hands of an angry god.”
A day earlier I had approached this meeting with a good deal of panic. Friends coached me to put aside my emotional attachment to him as a brother and to treat him as I would a coaching or counseling client. Taking their advice I now saw him in a different light, no longer the brother with whom I had longed to be friends, nor the bully who needed to control me, but a profoundly unhappy individual in denial and in serious need of some kind of intervention.
There was nothing more I could do. After thirty minutes I thanked him for his remarks, told him I was glad he had the opportunity to share his thoughts, shook his hand, and left his home, probably for the last time.
I learned a few old lessons in a new way:
* I cannot change anyone nor can I help most people.
* I need to continue taking the lead to live a full life of my own.
* It is futile to yearn for affection and friendship from someone who cannot give it.
* It’s okay to separate from anyone, even a close relative, who is a taker and not a giver.
* I ought to be even more grateful for those friends who have been my real brothers and sisters.
All art is copyrighted by the artist, Michael Parise