On Wednesday, we had a father, Dave, and his gamer son, Zack, join us on the HealthyGamer stream. Dr. K discussed interpersonal dynamics and relationships with the family and helped them understand each other’s perspectives. They talked about living with a special needs person, understanding your inner emotional state, and losing time with a loved one.
Living with an Autistic Family Member
Dr. K asked Zack to share his experience living with his brother, who has autism. Zack said it was quite challenging to interact with him. He did not know how he could communicate effectively with someone whose mind does not process communication the same way as everyone else.
According to AutismSpeaks, Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a variety of conditions typically characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. Issues with communication at a very early age are one of the main signs of autism. The immediate family of an autistic child goes through a lot to try to communicate with them and understand them.
Zack stopped trying to communicate with his brother as if his brother was a disabled person. Instead, he attempted to communicate with him like he was just another human being. That allowed him to go from not talking with his brother, to being the only person in the house who could communicate with him. That is no small feat. It also shows that to interact with an autistic person, we need to have compassion, empathy, a drive to understand, and proper guidance.
Understanding Your Inner Emotional State
Dr. K asked Dave if there was value to focusing on your feelings if they were unrelated to your goals. Dave expressed that, to him, the importance of understanding his emotions was to master them. He also felt that there is value in feeling emotions such as joy and fulfillment, even if they do not lead you to a goal.
Dr. K said that sometimes there is value in entirely negative emotions as well, even if they do not help you achieve a goal. For example, the grieving process is paradoxically healthy, despite it only consisting of negative emotion. Grief is entirely a negative emotion when you’re feeling it, yet somehow it is also cathartic.
If you decide to stop yourself from feeling certain emotions because they don’t help you achieve our objective, you tend to lose the ability to understand your inner emotional state. However, that does not mean that those emotions don’t affect you or influence your behavior. It only means that you stop being able to tell when that happens, which leads to confusion and conflict about the way you behave. To have healthy emotional awareness, both negative and positive emotions need to be acknowledged, regardless of their utility. It is better not to shove feelings under the carpet if you want to gain mastery over them. Dr. K also shared that in order to have strong relationships in a family, we need to understand ourselves before we can understand each other.
It is crucial that we understand how our emotions work. Learn about unbottling your emotions in this webinar:
Is Complaining Selfish?
Dave felt that life dealt their family a particular hand, and they played it to the best of their ability. He was proud of the progress they had made, and he did not want to complain about their situation. Dr. K asked him if it was okay for him to complain, and Dave shared that it would be selfish to do so, in his opinion. He said that he did not want to throw himself a pity party.
Dr. K explained that there is a difference between accepting that you have some negative emotion and throwing yourself a pity party. You need to acknowledge how you feel, and if you feel entitled to vent or complain to another person, then that is completely fine. There is a difference between asking for pity and merely acknowledging and accepting your inner emotional state. It is definitely productive to try to solve your problems instead of wallowing in pity. However, there is a subtle difference between acknowledging your emotions and attempting to resolve an issue and ignoring the emotional aspect of that issue altogether.
Losing Time With a Loved One
Dave expressed immense sorrow at having lost time with Zack during his formative years. He regretted not being able to provide emotional support for Zack during those years. He acknowledged that while there were other factors involved that prevented him from being there fully, he still felt guilty for not being emotionally present for Zack. Dave felt terrible for the time he had lost with his son. Those formative years are precious for bonding and forming a relationship, and that time does not come back.
Parenting is tough. It is a balancing act that requires you to handle your career, marriage, spend time with your children, and invest time in your interests. In Dave’s case, it was like playing life on hard mode because he had a special needs child mixed in the equation. Nobody teaches you how to be a parent. You learn as you go, and you mess up along the way because there is no manual.
Dr. K concluded that strong relationships in a family require effective communication and understanding. He said that while it may seem like Zack’s formative years are over, that may not be entirely true. Zack expressed that he still needs his father’s emotional support in his life and that it is not too late.
As gamers, we often have strained relationships with our family. However, it is worth trying to cultivate communication with them and try to explore our emotions together. Due to childhood experiences, we may have formed patterns in our mind that prevent us from communicating openly. In that case, it sometimes helps to take a step back and consider whether you would like to attempt to pursue a deeper emotional connection. In situations like these, family counseling can be very beneficial.
Check out the full interview here: