Dear Dr. Comer:
Your suggestions regarding the quiet daughter were thoughtful and sensible suggestions. My son is also exceedingly quiet, and has two friends with whom he shares interests, but otherwise, he leads a hermit-like existence. His father is painfully shy, so perhaps these qualities are genetic.
I feel that a person will not overcome shyness unless he first comes to the conclusion that he wants to overcome it.
Could you discuss the parent (in my case, my husband) who never exhibits any affection for, and very little interest in, his children, but is absorbed in sports on television, radio, newspaper, plus church and all things pertaining to religion.
He ignores any comments regarding his neglect of family and home. He also ignores articles about similar situations. It hurts a lot to see him do this to his daughters and a son (16 to 21 years old). H. S. Dear H. S.:
Most experts don't believe shyness is genetic.
But parents can transmit their own shyness to children because of the way childen imitate their parents.
The problem is more common than most people realize. It is usually much more difficult to change in an adult than in young children. There are exceptions and this may be the case with your husband.
As I have mentioned before, there are people who are simply loners who are comfortable, who are enjoying life, and who have the ability to relate easily with others when they want or need to do so. With children or adults like this, there is little reason to try and little chance of succeeding in changing them.
In your husband's case, there is reason to try. His shyness is hurting the family.
It is important to consider all in the family when one has a problem. Sometimes shy people are even more shy when they are around outgoing people who appear to be very competent and powerful. Also, the problem may be more than shyness alone. The way to help in such a case may be different than when the problem is shyness alone.
Many more men than women have a problem showing affection. This is partly related to the "tough guy" sterotype men in our culture feel they must live up to. It is often related to more personal experiences and problems for which an individual may need professional help.
Your problem is getting you husband to face up to the need to change. You are correct in suggesting that it is difficult for a person to change unless he or she want to do so. Thus you might want to go to a professional mental health service or to a trained pastoral counselor and discuss specific ways you might encourage your husband to seek change.
As I have mentioned in previous columns, persons in need of help who are running away from it often see people who are trying to help them as nagging or attacking them.
They need to know that you are trying to help out of love and respect. They need to know that you believe they are capable of change in order to be able to enjoy themselves and their families better. You also want to express a willingness to look at yourself; to make certain that your own style -- though it may be healthy for you -- is not contributing to the problem.
Other family members must have a real readiness to change if necessary and they must express that readiness. Dr. Comer