Category Archives: relationships

Size Matters


Oftentimes, we try to pass through small windows of opportunity with old beliefs that don’t fit.  It’s like forcing a huge square peg through a small round hole.  We bang, push, cry, yell and say “This is so unfair!”

We expect to make friends with people who want to be treated differently than our old pals; the ones who are used to our usual behavior.  Yes, some people will stick around and take the same old crap.  It’s called low self-esteem.  But to have new and maybe even better opportunities with different people, the same old crap won’t work.  The size of our baggage blocks our ability to see this.

Maybe our old beliefs have worked in the past.  We put value on how many times the loyal friends and family members kept coming back, no matter how insidious we acted at times or maybe even all the time.  We tend to look at this as being worth more than the potential for new experiences that foster real growth.

Remember that thing called “inflation”?  How many times have we refused to drop a useless pattern of thinking or an outdated belief, because of how it serves us in the name of comfort?  It’s like refusing a job that can possibly reap ten times more money, but the level of initial discomfort keeps us in a job that only earns a meager salary.

Catalyst


Sometimes we have to get our foot in the door on the matter of developing healthy relationships.  The most basic functions for human beings are scary and awkward.  Take conversation between people from two different age groups.

One person is seven or eight years old and the other is forty.  Maybe both of them live in the same household, but because of age they are worlds apart.  In terms of development, this is true.  A forty-year-old person experiences life physically much different from someone who is thirty years younger.  Kids usually don’t have the same aches and pains.

There is also a significant gap in the context of cultural preferences such as music and other forms of entertainment.  And what is a big deal to the youngster in second or third grade is most likely old news to the adult.

Conversation between the two is mostly restricted to happenstance and brief.  There’s nothing wrong with this.  Normal development includes a gradual shift in priorities and the person’s relative connection to their current age group.  To live in the present and take advantage of growth, each child, teen or adult is getting in tune with acquired abilities.  Even though children don’t have to pay bills, they do have to learn how to tie shoes and ride bikes.  We all have to pay attention to keep up with relevant information.

I will argue there are benefits in crossing the generational line in terms of sustained conversation.  One of them is trust.  I will explain.

At some point in a child’s life, he is going to face a choice between keeping a secret that is eating him up or disclosing it and getting help from a wise adult.  Which action do you think he will pick if there hasn’t been some way to talk on common ground with an adult so far?  In general, I see very defensive kids who cross their arms and frown quietly towards the expectation of what might happen with such freedom of speech.

On the other side of this, the adult usually has more faith in the child who demonstrates more of a vocabulary than “whatever” or “yeah”.

Another benefit of being able to hold a discussion with someone of a different generation is the widening of perspectives.  Each age group holds a limited view of how the world operates for other people and the ways in which things can be done.  Isn’t the knowledge of one hundred different angles to go at a challenge better than only one?  Remember the exercise that some of us new parents had to go through for the first baby in the home?  You crawl around on your hand and knees to see what the house and possible hazards look like for a child of six or seven  months.  Adults have grown used to walking around with their eyes seeing everything from an average of five and a half to six feet above the floor.

The physical way we see the world closely matches the context of interacting with others.  If I’m six, I will talk mostly of six-year-old related things.  I’m not going to talk about how much higher the water bill was this month.

But if I watch a movie with grandpa and I’m encouraged to speak at length about five or six different scenes with him afterwards, then I stand more of a chance understanding how to talk an adult.  There’s nothing scary about conversation after all.

 

Thumper’s Family Rules


Thumper’s nose tickles with a long brush of fur and the smooth side of a hind foot claw.  He wakes up and looks just long enough to see his son Quip hopping on through the cave door.  Then he hears “Stupid Marci!”

She’s not far behind.  Her white and fluffy feet churn with incredible speed.  Wham!  Marci is knocked over from the side by Quip as he is running back into the cave.  She rolls three times and is soon back on all four, whipping around and chasing him through the tunnel back to the sleeping rooms.  This all takes place in a split-second.  Thumper barely gets to say their names when Roxie his wife hops in from the opposite tunnel entrance.  “Could you please help them straighten this out?”

“I don’t even know what’s going on.”  He tries to squeeze the sleepiness from his eyes with the back of a paw.

Roxie smiles with nose scrunched up and adjusts her cottontail to the seat beside him.  She wants to see Thumper’s reaction to the latest news about what the brother and sister have done.  “Okay.  Marci found a rock shaped like a carrot and painted it orange.”

“And he fell for that?”

“Let me finish” says Roxie with a punctual tone.  “And yes.  He did.  He bit into it and then out of anger threw it up against the wall.  It tore right through one of Marci’s collectables.  So now they are raging mad at each other.”

“When did this happen?” asks Thumper with his eyes rolled.  He isn’t surprised.

“About thirty minutes ago.  Neither one of them can catch each other.

“Yeah they both have wicked speed.  But..”

“But I didn’t wake you.  Because I know how you get about your naps.”

“Okay and now I have to get this stopped before anything else breaks.”

Young adult Thumper thumping his foot from Bambi

Young adult Thumper thumping his foot from Bambi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

sits for a minute longer and stares at the main room table.  During this, Marci whizzes by with Quips favorite stash of berries.  Her teenage energy sends a wake of air into the table so hard it almost topples over.

“Stop!”

Marci is already out of the cave once again.  Upon Thumper’s booming assertion, Quip attempts to stop but trips and flips end for end into the wall.  He bounces off and falls back into the table.

Roxie helps him back on his big powder-puff feet.  He dusts himself off and twitches his nose.  Marci’s nose and whiskers are seen by the corner of the door.  She’s called in to join them.

“Alright” Thumper says with a calm voice.  “Marci.  You are going to look straight at Quip and say ‘Wow Quip.  You really changed the look of my collectible.’

With some reluctance and kicking imaginary dirt with her feet, Marci says to her brother the exact same statement.  She maintains the direct look with slight smile.  This isn’t the first time such an exercise in the Huxtable household.

“Good going Marci” remarks their father.  “Quip.  Tell your sister ‘That was one heck of a paint job you did on the rock Marci.’

Quip has to make an extravagant show of it.  He does a clumsy twirl on one hind leg, stopping with a direct look to her and says “My Marci!  What a heck of a paint job you did on the rock!”

Thumper, Roxie and Marci each let out an exasperated giggle at this display.

Thumper raises his paws in triumph.  “And again we have the rule?”

And all four declare with cheer “Don’t go to bed angry!”

Three Times My Last Words


It’s my turn now.  It’s my time.  Lights!  Camera!  Action!

The bright yellow, sticky paint envelops my pores as the pool rises and takes more surface.  Slowly, the suffocating embodiment of liquid color threatens to enter my nose.  I say “Bring them in!”

I cite every last crime before them.

“What are you talking about” they say, with confused expressions.

The paint bubbles with my efforts to push it back out with labored breaths and I realize the wasted effort spent frightened by my private thoughts.

Ah, let’s try again.

I touch the flame to my last boat and walk on to the beach.  The surf licks up against my ankles and my body is electric.  This will be my last chance to apologize before leaving the earth.  May forgiveness be my legacy.

She shakes her head and smiles.  “You never even spoke to me.  What did you want to say?”

Fooled again.  The thoroughbreds crush me two by two before I get the chance.  Again.

For the third time, I set the stage for my window of opportunity and motivation to break the spell of fear.  The vines are cut.  My safety net will dissolve and hold no further chance of protection.  With all my strength I jump.  Christina’s hands accept me.

And she says “This is all you had to do.”

Build Your Vocabulary


English: Emily Chrisman and teacher Joseph Pas...

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 Children’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 children’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.

Olympian Factor Of Relationship Skills


Fasce Olympians

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.

 

The Trouble With Self-Affirming Statements


Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) leads brother Ral...

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.