Jan loved her husband and three children, and had a successful job as a computer programmer. However, her family, her beautiful home, and expensive car were not making her happy. Jan felt guilty for being miserable and complaining to her loyal husband. "After all," she told me at her first counseling session, "I have more than others, and much more than my parents did. Why am I so depressed?"
To assist Jan to find her answers, I guided her through a process I developed called HART, which stands for Holistic and Rapid Transformation. I have a favorite saying, "Close your eyes and see clearly." So I said, "Jan, I believe that your answers are inside of you. So close your eyes and relax so that we can explore your issues." Then I guided Jan to visualize both her mother and herself standing in front of her, and to tell me if she noticed any similarities. Jan replied, "Yes, we look a lot alike and we both seem inhibited." Then I asked Jan, "What do you want to say to either one or both of them?" Jan said, "Mom and Jan lighten up. Do what you love doing. Be happy!"
With those freeing thoughts, Jan automatically took a deep breath of relief. Then I continued, "Jan, do you see any differences between your mother and yourself?" She commented, "Yes. My mother stayed home with my sister and I, and like a dutiful wife took care of her husband and the house. Whereas I have a profession and I earn lots of money."
"However, Jan," I continued, "is computer work what you really want to do?" "Not really," said Jan. "In fact, I hate it. It's boring!" When I asked Jan why she was doing that kind of work, she informed me that when she had married her husband, Bob, she had agreed to bring in a certain amount of money too so that they could have their high standard of living. Jan admitted that her expensive home in her upper class neighborhood felt like a trap. She felt boxed in with no way out. "Growing up in a lower class neighborhood wasn't any fun either. I had thought that working hard and raising my standard of living would make me happy. But it hasn't."
"Was your mother happy, Jan?" I inquired.
"No, not really. When I was a teenager my mother shared with me that she always wanted to be a dancer but had given up her dream for her family. Her husband, my father, had insisted that she be the 'good wife'. Mom felt that she had to follow her mother's model of stifling her desires to play the role of wife and mother. When I asked my mom if she was sorry that she had made that choice, she told me, with an unemotional voice, that she was grateful for her good, secure life, but felt as though she had given up something.
Mom even admitted to me that she probably took out her resentments on her husband by withholding affection and spending lots of his money. She was feeling guilty for the times her resentments caused her to be impatient with my sister and I."
When I asked Jan what decision she was making from that conversation, she said, "I'm deciding that women have to play their roles as wife and mother. But Helene," she went on to explain, "I thought I had also made the decision that I would be different. I would work outside of the home and have more freedom than my mother did."
"You did," I replied, "But you seem to be doing what you think you should be doing to make money, and to please your husband and your children, and not what you really want to do. Both you and your mother made what I have noticed to be the biggest mistake women make in relationships. Both of you gave up your dream, gave up being who you really are, and that is why you are unhappy. In a way, we can say that you chose to give your power to your husbands and then resented them for it."
Jan related to what I was saying and then admitted to me that her secret dream was to be an actress. "Ever since I was a little girl," Jan shared, "I loved being on the stage. I especially liked to play funny parts and make people laugh. Everyone is so serious, we need to laugh more. Golly, I just realized that ever since I got married, I automatically became one of those serious folks."
When I asked Jan why she didn't pursue her dream, she replied, "I didn't think that I could make enough money being an actress. Bob didn't give me much support in that direction either. He persuaded me to keep my well-paying position."
"Jan," I continued, "Have you been resenting him for not encouraging you to follow your dream?"
"Oh yes!" exclaimed Jan. "I don't get up to make him breakfast and my dinners are pretty bad, if I do say so myself. I also won't keep to the budget and I don't have much sexual desire. Gee, I just realized that I'm doing just what my mother did, including getting angry at my sons. What should I do?"
I suggested to Jan that she bring Bob into the office so that she can share her truth with him, and I can help him hear her and work out some win-win solutions. Jan was hesitant to make an appointment with Bob until after she succeeded in overcoming her other blocks to being an actress. She had discovered in the counseling process that she unconsciously didn't feel good enough or that she didn't deserve to be happy. (Those are very common fears that stop many people from going after their dream.)
When Bob finally did come in, Jan was feeling clearer and more powerful, and she asked Bob for what she wanted. Jan told him all about her dream and admitted to resenting him for not supporting her. By the end of the session, Bob was understanding his wife better and was willing to do what it took in order for her to be happy. I acknowledged Bob for being flexible and for truly loving his wife. I said, "When you have a mature love for someone, you truly want them to be happy."
I was not surprised but I was pleased when I received an invitation in the mail to attend Jan's first performance. She wrote a note that it was not a big part but she knew that it was a good beginning. What a joy it was to see Jan glowing on the stage. Even though I knew that it was scary for her, she looked very excited and as if she belonged up there. At the end of the delightful performance, Bob came over to give me a hug. He also looked a lot happier and was obviously very proud of his wife.
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