Category Archives: unknown territory

Handling Bad Cops


The only thing I ever learned about getting a switch taken to the back of my legs, was to make sure I stayed out of sight of the switch-wielder when doing the bad deeds.  So let’s not go for the switch when handling bad cops (some New York City police officers, for instance).

Instead, we can look at what really made me think twice about doing stupid things, like having someone else own my free time.

Parents who know how to make use of a kid’s time, are able to cover a lot of ground in the household and keep up a functional hierarchy, teaching the art of accountability without hostility.

With that said, here is a list of community service jobs for bad cops to do (before and after their regular shifts) under the supervision of private citizens:

Wash the school buses.

Serve in the soup lines.

Clean the city parks by hand.

Clean up the environmental hazard sites.

Walk people’s dogs.

Groom people’s dogs.

I’m sure there are many other community service jobs that other people can think of.

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  How many times have we refused to drop a useless pattern of thinking or an outdated belief, because of how it serves us in the name of comfort?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.

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.”

To smoulder or live life.


English: Jack and Jill by Dorothy M. Wheeler

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.

No Magic To It


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.

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.