It’s midnight. The phone rings. You answer. It’s your son.
‘Hey, dad. Sorry to call so late. I’m going through a really rough time. I was wondering if you could help me out.’
You hear panic in his voice. Your heart aches.
‘I’m really sorry to hear that, son’ , you respond.
‘Please tell me, what can I do?’
He breaks down.
‘Can I come over? I’m losing it.’
You invite him over.
You answer the door. Your son is standing in the doorway. His face is pale, his eyes are sunken, his eyes are darting and his hands are fidgeting.
‘Please, please, come in! Oh my goodness, son, please come here and sit. The house is warm and I have some tea on the stove. I’m here for you.’
He sits. You wrap your arm around him. You comfort him. You serve him tea. You ask him to share with you his pain and suffering.
‘Please, son, tell me what happened.’
He looks into your eyes. There is a deep sadness in them.
‘You see—the thing is…’
He stutters and starts crying his eyes out. His knees hit the floor. You rush to embrace him. You rub his back and hold him.
‘I’m here for you, son. No matter what it is I promise that this is a safe environment.”
He raises his palm to his face and wipes his tears. He’s breathing heavily now—a sigh of relief. You both sit back down.
‘I feel worthless. I feel ashamed. I feel weak. I feel unlovable. I feel like I’m nothing,’ he says.
His voice falters.
‘I watch pornography and masturbate to make myself feel better. I feel worse. I feel numb. I feel trapped. I don’t know what to do.’
You breathe deeply. You look him straight in the eyes. You put your hand on his heart.
‘Do you hear what I just said?’ , he yells with irritation in his voice.
You remain silent. With your hand on his heart and looking him straight in the eyes.
‘You’re suffering. You have deep wounds that you’re struggling to heal. I’m sorry. I know this is difficult for you and you are doing the best that you can. I want to help alleviate your suffering. What can I do?’
Confusion washes over his face. You notice that he looks puzzled. You remain silent and listen.
‘I’ll do anything I can to help alleviate your suffering, son.’
A more sober expression appears on his face.
‘Ok…um…this feels a little embarrassing to ask, but when my mind is being flooded with self-criticisms and self-judgments and shaming thoughts could I call you for reassurance? To hear from you as a reminder that they’re not my fault, that it’s not my fault that my brain developed this way and that I’m doing my best?’
‘Of course!’ , you respond. ‘What else?’
‘Um…well…could you speak warmly to me when I’m struggling with the urge to act out on rough days?’
‘Of course, son, I would love to! I love you so much.’ , you respond.
A small smile appears on his face. You smile back. You pull him close and squeeze him tight.
‘I know how it feels, son. I struggled with that also as a young man. It can feel lonely, I know. It can be painful and frustrating when you’re doing your best to have integrity but encounter really large challenges. You’re not alone.’
His eyes widen and he turns his head.
‘Really? You struggled with this too, dad?’
‘Yup.’ , you say.
‘You have the strength and fortitude and courage to be kind to yourself, son. Whatever pain or suffering that arises, you have the power to notice it, be kind to yourself, do something healthy to help soothe the wound, and to remember that like me and many others this is a struggle we all go through. You are not alone and you have the self-compassion it takes to heal.’
A look of calm washes over the son’s face as the dad sits and sips tea.
His wife walks in.
‘Who were you talking too, honey?’
‘Oh, no one.’
If you’d do it for your son, no reason why you shouldn’t be compassionate to yourself.
Lots of love, brothers.