I was in my early 20s, in law school, and expressing my desire to do public interest/public service law as opposed to working in a big law firm. I was in a heated discussion with my mother.

My Mom was an extraordinarily generous person.  She was the first person to give money to a friend or even a stranger in need.  Nonetheless, she was not having any of my idealism as I explained that I would prefer making $30,000 a year in a job that was contributing to the world than $100,000 in a job that was not.

“I want to make a difference and I want to be happy.”

She laughed, not in an appreciative way, but in the way one does when listening to a fool.

It was not a good conversation.

But, it could have been had we effectively communicated our respective beliefs about the importance of money and security in one’s career and if we understood each other’s psychological make-up, both as people and in the context of the parent-child dynamic, better.

Here’s what my Mom should have said:

“You have never had to worry about money.  So, you don’t understand that your happiness could be affected by not having enough money, particularly if you plan to provide for your future wife and children.”

Here’s what I should have said:

“I totally appreciate all that you and Dad did to make me grow up without having to think much about money.   I must sound like a naïve and spoiled kid to be so dismissive of money.  I’m sorry.”

If I had the self-awareness and understanding of both personality theory and the dynamics of the parent-child relationship, I would have continued:

“Remember those personality tests that I made everyone take?  I’m an NF in Myers-Briggs lingo.  This means that I am idealist.  You are much more practical.  We are wired differently in terms of our needs to make a difference.  The need to feel like my job matters affects me in a more profound way than others.  I don’t know if that is a blessing or a curse.   But, that’s my reality.

In addition, you are a Point 6 in the Enneagram which translates to having a high need for security, and, more to the point, a far higher need than mine.  While I am not a big risk taker, I’m naturally more optimistic than you and generally believe that things will work out.

Moreover, your security inclination is magnified by our relationship.  Parents have a biological need (literally!) to keep their children safe.   Keeping one’s baby safe from bankruptcy is the modern day equivalent of keeping one’s baby safe from carnivorous predators.”

Despite our ascension into adulthood, even adults as old as me, still play back the internal programming provided by our parents.   That causes blockages in movement towards dreams, particularly when risk is involved.

Remember you likely have a different psychological make-up than your parents.  This will cause you to clash over issues of significance because you literally view the world from different internal prisms.

As for my mom and me, had I been a better communicator and more attune to our respective psychological needs, we probably still would not have agreed about such issues.  But, at least, we would have understood each other better.

As I grew older and delved into understanding the human psyche, I was able to better explain why I would do “crazy things” (from a security oriented perspective) like give up the fruits of my Ivy-league law degree to create an education and counseling business  (from an idealist perspective, I had a “calling”, what else could I do?!)

Certainly, she never really understood in a way that a fellow idealist would.  We were just too different.   But, I was able to assuage her concerns by emphasizing things that I knew would sound good to her ears (we just opened a new office) and avoiding things that would make her anxious (I never mentioned that I still never know how much money I’ll make each month!).

Thank goodness.  We grew wonderfully close in the last decade before she passed away a few weeks ago.