Granny Thinks I’m Crazy; plus, Restaurant Impossible—Decision Obvious
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My grandmother is driving me crazy. I’m pretty independent, but she is old-school and doesn’t like my lifestyle. So get this: She calls local psychotherapists and psychologists and tries to make appointments for me! In fact, she even called you. She didn’t like you because you told her that I (as the client, after all) would have to take the initiative to call on my own and that you would not accept an appointment for me that was made by her—even after she offered to pay you in advance. Thank you for doing that.
What started out as cute is beginning to be annoying and intrusive. And I’m tired of calling mental health professionals to cancel appointments she has made for me. Help!
Dr. Hurd replies,
You said it yourself—you’re independent. That’s what your grandmother doesn’t understand. Or maybe she doesn’t want to understand it. People who are independent cannot be told what to do. You can be physically forced, if someone (like, say, the government) exercises the power of coercion. But your mind can never be forced to think anything it does not wish to think.
That’s why your grandmother will never get anywhere with you. Right or wrong, logical or not, thinking is by definition always an independent act. It’s no accident your grandmother is seeking a “doctor of the mind” to control you. It’s your mind your grandmother hopes to change. I have not heard her perspective, but she’s going about it the wrong way. If she hasn’t convinced you to change your ways, I don’t know how she expects a therapist to do any better. I call this magical thinking. Somehow, magically, the therapist will make you think a certain way.
It won’t do you any good to tell her this. The more you tell her, the more she’ll see your independence in practice, and the more it will upset her. Try to keep in mind that this is about her, not you. You seem distressed and upset over her behavior, but you don’t have to be. She’s the one with the problem.
The next time she criticizes or disagrees with you, simply tell yourself that her criticism is a sign of her anxiety. I don’t know what she’s upset about, but it’s not really you. What’s probably at the root of her distress is that she doesn’t have control over her world the way she would like to. Maybe she’s reacting to aging; maybe she’s jealous of you for being young. Who knows. But no matter: Rather than address whatever her own issues, she’s acting-out by trying to control you.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I work in a restaurant. I won’t say which one, because their kitchen is just plain dirty. In spite of their carelessness, I like the owners, and I really like working there. But I know it’s just a matter of time before somebody gets sick. I don’t want to lose my job, and I know if I call the health department that I will be fired and disliked by the very same people whose health and business I’m trying to protect.
I cringe when orders come into the kitchen for things that I suspect might not be sanitary, but it took me a long time to find a job that I like. I don’t know what to do.
Dr. Hurd replies,
How long will your place of employment remain a place of employment, if it’s really that dirty? Even if the authorities never become involved, people will get sick and stop coming. It’s probably already happening. Word will spread, and it will affect your salary and tips before too long, if it hasn’t already.
This sounds like the classic moral dilemma. “Should I do the right thing, or the practical thing?” I don’t see the difference. It seems to me that it’s highly impractical to work for a restaurant that harms its customers. To participate in that harm is not good for your financial well-being or reputation. Logic tells us that contradictions don’t exist. You say that you like your job, but you also say the place is disgusting. It doesn’t make sense to like a business that does a bad job. The purpose of a business is to make money. Profits and dirty restaurant kitchens are time bombs and not a winning combination.
Your emotions have not caught up with the facts. Guide your emotions towards the truth, and your dilemma will evaporate. Imagine if you found a car you really liked. The color is perfect, the model is what you wanted and the price is right. Then you find out it needs a new transmission costing more than the value of the car. Is this a dilemma? You wouldn’t say, “Should I buy the car, because it’s the one I wanted?” Your emotions would quickly catch up with the unpleasant fact that the car isn’t what you thought it was.
You don’t really need my advice. You don’t need me to tell you what to do, because the simple facts already point to the only possible answer.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office may be reached at 302-227-2829. Email your questions or comments to Dr. Hurd.