English: Jack and Jill by Dorothy M. Wheeler (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Jack and Jill go up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack falls down and breaks his crown. Jill skips along to the other side of the hill and continues to take the pale to where it belongs. She does think about Jack and hopes he will dust off and catch up with her. Her wondering is interrupted by a colorful tune from the cellphone and she is soon on the way to drop off the bucket and head over to Sally’s house for lunch. Maybe they would go out later.
Jack kicks around rocks for a while and by mistake attracts a cloud of angry bees. Oops! Apparently, in the middle of all his huffing, puffing and wild throwing he sent a rock flying into a hive. Ten minutes and one hundred bees later, he’s lying on the ground and moaning. The stings produce ugly bubbles with a red prickly center in each all over his face.
Jill is sitting at Sally’s house on the porch laughing it up over the stories of their other friends antics. Jack’s name comes up as well. Both of the girls plan a late night and drink their tea. Doug pulls into the driveway in his hopped up four-wheel-drive work truck and jumps on to the porch; soon adding to the laughter about goofy friends.
Meanwhile Jack is running from a two-hundred-pound wolf. He smacks himself hard against a tree, but manages to get a grip on the lowest limb and climb up to safety. Laying in the upper part of the tree, he starts to wonder where Jill went to. She told him earlier about the possibility that Sally might call. He thinks about punching her in the shoulder later for leaving the hill. His face is burning. Both of them had the task of taking the water to dear old Miss June’s house. She’s been sick lately and paid them the day before to fetch water.
Jack sees that the wolf stops waiting and trots off back into the woods. Jack has to take the chance of getting out of there on his own. He forgot to charge his phone last night. Hell of a moment. But he has to get out of the tree. Jill, Sally and Doug aren’t there with him. It’s either lay around and moan on the big branch or climb back down and run. Then Jack will be able to help make his group of friends into a foursome during a night on the town.
Some people assume that their words have magical powers; like when a father tells his son to concentrate and worker harder. How many times does he have to say this? Does his son’s brain automatically change gears and get right to it? Test the idea and watch what happens. Just stand there and say “work harder and concentrate”. Write down the number of times you can say this in a day and mark down the amount of progress noted. If you have to say it, there isn’t much of a chance, until you do some work.
In order to see new results, we sometimes have to mix in new types of activities and boost our vocabulary. Our brains and bodies have a hard time running on empty when we’re expected to pick up on a different way of doing things. To expect otherwise is like waiting for some magic potion or fairy dust sprinkled, or the wave of a magic wand.
This is why I carry around a kitchen timer and other tools in my therapy bag when visiting the schools. It helps a person to know where the limits are, so we can establish a direction (and get out the timer). If concentration fails after thirty seconds, then we obviously need to work towards a minute. Of course there has to be some personal motivation behind it. Maybe the kid wants to get something done right the first time and not spend hours on homework in detention or after school. But then, maybe he likes this kind of punishment. There maybe some gain in attention from adults in this respect and he likes it.
Nevertheless, this persons brain may not know how to just get with it at will. And so we educate. Knowledge is power right! Yeah, the reader can fight me on this, but he or she may want to know how I help the client with an awareness of their own type of thinking. And this is where the drawing pad comes in handy. Over the course of many sessions, I have observed the results in black, white and color how different people (kids) respond to the directive “make a picture”. The subject of a drawing could be an emotional situation or a simple description of the family. If markings are made all over the paper in an erratic fashion and the picture is not being completed, I will take back the pad and draw an outline of something; number the parts and have him color it in by the numbers: 1-10.
If the child or preteen responds well to competing for stickers, I say “Each part has to be colored in order. If you start with any number but one, you don’t get a sticker”. The task sounds elementary. To some artistically inclined people, the exercise of coloring in parts by correct order probably goes against the virtue of creativity, but let me explain. There is my observation of how relaxed and methodical a person becomes when doing such an activity. The brain, hand and use of coordination has to work in a step-by-step manner. The task gets done and it actually makes sense! And here, we have a prescribed way of doing things many times over. Repetition is the mother of skill.
English: Emily Chrisman and teacher Joseph Pascetta role play a situation during the Oct. 10, “Tying the Yellow Ribbon” event in Elgin, Ill. This is one of the many ways instructors with the Childrenâ€™s Reintegration Program teach kids how to deal with difficult situations when their parent comes home from deployment. Pascetta is one of eight teachers from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology that help with the childrenâ€™s program. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You have a loss for words when sitting around at a party or some other function. Your memory is fishing for something nice to say to a peer and there is nothing but a blank. To fish anywhere in the world requires the body of water is stocked or naturally populated. Otherwise you are dipping the hook with no results. You might also have to learn how to fish.
In many of the psychotherapy sessions I facilitate, there is an all too common challenge for the client to communicate in a positive and productive way with others. I see whole families who come off with a tendency to talk down to each other and act confused when directed to pay a compliment. Along with this, we usually discover that the family members are sorely lacking of a personal vocabulary for positive-based phrases and words.
To help with building a new track in the memory banks for the positive verbage and productive use of it, I propose an active use of role-play and an immediate goal to meet. The development of skill and a change in memory takes repetition of a particular task, which in this case means saying the words out loud.
In my next post, I will talk about the art of motivation for this task and the different and fun ways to help get it started.
Fasce Olympians (Photo credit: Marco Crupi Visual Artist)
Ever notice how Olympic athletes bring on the “edge of your seat” level of anticipation when performing a feat which would most likely kill the rest of us? About twenty years ago, I started paying attention to the kinds of events which starred a single athlete either skating to a song or making a death-defying move off the bars. And I have also read about what goes into accomplishment of such moments.
An Olympian eats, breathes and dreams the moves over and over on a daily basis. The practice and honing of moves are a lifestyle and habit. The observer into a period of this athlete’s life would shake his head in amazement and think “Wow. Get a life.”
Why? Because the life of an Olympian is not the life of an average person. Average means influence of emotion and desires. Average has no focused path to follow through on. Reaching sub-goals on the way to achieving an goal is not everyday and mediocre practice. Devoting hours and days to a ritual that gradually trains the body to respond automatically to a certain stimulus, is not for the average life of just getting through the days until the weekend.
Quite a few people who come to my counseling office are familiar with the observer’s stance on the practice of implementing relationship skills. For example, most friends and family members in any given person’s life are casting doubts and surprise when personal boundaries are announced. The new behavior of setting a time-limit on phone calls with negative people is labeled as “selfish.” And the therapy assignment to saying “No” to the usual requests at home or in the company of friends is sometimes met with astonishment, silly questions and the expression of anger. This person is changing the game. He or she (client) is not only working on a healthy relationship goal, but is also refusing to act like the same old piece of furniture in other people’s comfort zone.
In this case, average is not the rule of thumb. The client’s determination to reach a healthier level of response to bullying or co-dependent behavior, will not permit the act of submission. The remark “Well now you’re just being crazy” or some other kind of guilt trip will not influence the training.
We are encouraged by many to produce inner-motivation towards our goals through the work of self-affirmation. In recent years there has been the prominent referral to “I’m Okay and You’re Okay” kinds of statements. Some of the self-help gurus make “positive inner discovery” a staple of their programs. One thousand percent of this makes sense and is effective.
To say “I can” and then of course finish the statement is a very healthy and even courageous declaration. It beats sitting crouched in a corner with your thumb in mouth, while rocking back and forth. It sure as hell beats standing by and hiding your abilities while someone else takes off with the opportunity. Do you agree?
What we’re missing here is the challenge to saying “I can” or “My strength is..” when much of life has been a focus on what a sibling or cousin or classmate can do better. I will venture to say that the challenge has a lot to do with what communication many of us receive in these different environments. Have you ever been told “Why can’t you be like..?”
In chapter five of “The Strong-Willed Child: Birth Through Adolescence” written by Dr. James Dobson (1978), there is the conclusion arrived at on how comparisons are made between siblings. A child in the family or at school hears spoken messages by his adult leaders which stick in his or her mind. An older brother or sister is praised for winning the trophies. And at every turn, upon misbehavior of the failure to perform up to snuff, the other sibling is told “Why can’t you do..?” And the competition ensues. For this boy or girl, the focus becomes more about what the older sister or brother or classmate has, and less about what is yet to be discovered within.
First, I will ask the reader to look at the difference between “argue” and “debate.” Quite a few of us in American culture can run into some confusion, because of our pioneering spirit. We cherish our independence. A lot of early training in the families of this country, reflects the value in standing up for what we believe. Otherwise, there would not be much protest against government agencies trying to dictate how to raise the kids and run the household. We don’t like being told what to do, period. I for one, hope that this healthy attitude continues. Human beings are not sheep.
When a person is in debate of an issue, he does best when ready with a convincing set of facts. His platform for debate may not guarantee a win of the most votes, but he can at least pavé the road to a later credible battle. Unlike argument, which is a behavior based on emotional defense, the act of debating serves a purpose. The opponent is invited to share information and the goal here is to clarify the gravity of the issue. A solution is eventually reached. In arguments, there is nothing but an angry push from each person to see who is the strongest. And when emotion is ruling the behavior on each side, the information (if any) is only distorted and both parties are further from a solution. So another day goes by without anything productive happening. It’s just a cycle of futility. To argue needlessly is akin to climbing a mountain made of butter with cellophane shoes.
My way of helping to curb the impulse to argue or be led into an argument is simple and easy. Of course, this works best when there is a personal acknowledgement of the costs about such behavior. The method has to do with using physical cues to help monitor the rate of impulsive acts. Your job is to cut down on the number of times per day, that a disagreement or behavior triggers an emotional reaction. For example, if six-year-old Johnny says the “No T.V. after 7:00 at night rule” is stupid and you are starting in with “No it’s not” then go ahead and put a colored chip labeled “I argued again” in the designated can. I’ve been known to label the cans for this kind of process, with words that remind the client of what we talked about in the session. Bringing a souvenir home from vacation has the same effect.