Archive for July, 2006

July 31, 2006

Children re-write experiences with dad when they go back to mom

by Rod Smith

My stepsons (8 and 9) visit us on weekends. My husband and I find their visits very thrilling. Occasionally when they get back to their mother’s they speak negatively of their experiences with us. My husband and I have talked this through with their mother. She knows what a nice time they have here and how “normal” we make it. Why would they make it sound negative? Have other readers had similar experiences?

As the children grow up you will see many phases of how they view and interpret their world. I would not make an issue of it. The miracle I see is a step mother, dad and mother are all talking to each other about how to handle the children! Are you aware how rare this is? Congratulations.

I have seen parallel circumstances in my own son who is 8. He will go to an event and have what appears to be the best time of his life – and then “re-write” the experience once it is over. I have come to the conclusion that this is how he copes with something that he has really enjoyed, coming to an end.

July 29, 2006

Differentiation of Self

by Rod Smith

The Adult Task

Interested readers would do well to read Murray Bowen, Rabbi Ed Friedman and David Schnarch on this topic. The phrase was coined by Murray Bowen. Google their names and their works will be referenced. David Schnarch’s book called PASSIONATE MARRIAGE is perhaps the finest book on relationships available and should have a place on every thinking person’s bookshelf. Be aware that it is very explicit but never pornographic. Occasionally readers have asked if I promote David’s book because I “get a cut.” While I have met Dr. Schnarch, I do not “get” anything from him for promoting his book. I doubt he has any idea at all that I have written about his book several times in my newspaper columns. His book is a best-seller without my help and it is so simply because it is VERY good. Wouldn’t it be fun if he left a comment on this blog sometime!?

Please print the following out and spread it all around….

Print this out, spread it around...

Print this out, spread it around...

Self-Differentiation is a progressive, internal interplay between autonomy (separation) and connection (togetherness) while progressing toward developing and known goals.

Being an authentic adult is hard work and a never completed task. The pathway is paved with difficulty and challenge.

To become an adult, every person faces the task of the Differentiation of Self. It is to be noted that this is a life-long task which begins in the womb, where we were all, at one point, an undifferentiated embryonic mass! We have been moving (given we are healthy and seeking growth) toward states of greater differentiation ever since. This is an uncompleted, yet continuing and challenging, task for us all. It is very important to note that Differentiation is NOT primarily about BEHAVIOR. It is about an internal process of growing up, taking responsibility for ones life, of taking on the task of fully becoming.

Not to differentiate is to fuse (the failure to become a separate person) with others and to place responsibility on others (or on situations, predicaments, and hurdles) for the way in which our lives develop. To differentiate is to provide a platform for maximum growth and personal development for everyone in your circle of influence.

Differentiation is described in many ways in the following points:

1. Growing in the ability to see where and how I fit into my family, the position I hold and the power that is and is not given to that position.
2. Growing in the ability to be fully responsible for my own life while being committed to growing closer to those I love.
3. Intentionally developing, at the same time, autonomy and intimacy. In developing autonomy I set myself towards achieving my dreams and ambitions. In developing intimacy, I allow those close to me to see and know me as I really am.
4. Being willing to say clearly who I am and who I want to be while others are trying to tell me who I am and who I should be.
5. Staying in touch with others while, and even though, there is tension and/or disagreement.
6. Being able to declare clearly what I need and requesting help from others without imposing my needs upon them.
7. Being able to understand what needs I can and cannot meet in my own life and in the lives of others.
8. Understanding that I am called to be distinct (separate) from others, without being distant from others.
9. Understanding that I am responsible to others but not responsible for others .
10. Growing in the ability to live from the sane, thinking and creative person I am, who can perceive possibilities and chase dreams and ambitions without hurting people in the process.
11. Growing in the ability to detect where controlling emotions and highly reactive behavior have directed my life, then, opting for better and more purposeful growth born of creative thinking.
12. Deciding never to use another person for my own ends and to be honest with myself about this when I see myself falling into such patterns.
13. Seeing my life as a whole, a complete unit, and not as compartmentalized, unrelated segments.
14. Making no heroes, taking no victims. (Fused persons require heroes which can just as quickly, in their eyes, become villains.)
15. Giving up the search for the arrival of a Knight in Shining Armour who will save me from the beautiful struggles and possibilities presented in everyday living.
16. Paying the price for building and living withing community.
17. Moving beyond “instant” to process when it comes to love, miracles, the future, healing and all the important and beautiful things in life.
18. Enjoying the water (rather than praying for it to be wine), learning to swim (rather than trying to walk on water).

Differentiated People

d-is-for-differentiation1. Achieve their goals and keep strong relationships.
2. Know when “I” is “I” and “we” is “we” and the difference between the two.
3. Live in their own “space” and “skin” without invading the “space” and “skin” of others.
4. Maintain individuality and embrace others at the same time.
5. Avoid siding with people even if it appears helpful.
6. Resist telling others what they need, think, feel or should do.
7. Say “I” rather than “you” or “we.”
8. Appreciate differences in people, seeing no person as “all good” or “all bad.”
9. Recognize emotional bullying (all kinds of bullying) and refuse to participate in it.
10. Refuse to be manipulated into rescuing others.
11. Hold onto their positions and beliefs without being rigid or defensive.
12. Be clear-headed under pressure.
13. Cope in difficult situations without falling apart.
14. Know how much they need others and how much others need them.
15. Keep their voice under pressure without confusing thinking and feeling.
16. Be free of spending time or energy winning approval, attacking, blaming or maneuvering in relationships.
17. Resist playing games with people in order to feel loved or powerful.
18. Have learned that the voice of “they” is better ignored if “they” will not identify who “they” are – and – if others who know who “they” are, refuse to give “them” a name. (In other words ignore the THEY if THEY won’t, or cannot, say who THEY are).

Differentiation Is not easy

Thinking that ordering ginger ale because everyone else is ordering orange juice, or, going left because everyone is going right, in the name of self-differentiation is to misunderstand and trivialize the concept. Differentiation is much more difficult than going against the grain. Any rebel can do that and rebellion usually requires quite little when it comes to wisdom. Differentiation can, and will often look like total conformity.

Differentiation is not first, about behavior; it is an emotional process, involving an inward transformation that can indeed become new ways of behaving. It is a realization of one’s uniqueness and the seeing one’s role, goals, and calling with an “internal” eye. The inward process proceeds to find outward expression in every aspect of our life and relationships. It is not a set of rules about how to behave a little (or a lot) differently from others.

Differentiation is not:

1. Trying to be different, unusual or controversial for the sake of impact alone.
2. About making a statement, resisting authority, defying or disrespecting cultural norms, challenging the values of others. The process of differentiation might include an appearance of all the above but it is more than “the road less traveled” or some statement of independence, defiance or difference.
3. A completed task but an ongoing internal condition that monitors oneself in relationship with all others.
4. “Lone Ranger” behavior, but self-awareness and self-assuredness that might appear “lone-ranger-ish” to others.

July 27, 2006

Healthy People

by Rod Smith

Healthy people (differentiated people) manifest (or have) many, but not necessarily all, of the following characteristics:

(Rate yourself, not others)

1. They can relate to and relax with people of all ages, races and persuasions – they are accepting.

2. They can mourn after disappointments and losses and, after a time, rise up and face similar challenges again – they are resilient.

3. They have done what is possible to understand their childhood and, despite past trauma, take responsibility for what they are becoming – they are responsible.

4. They are humored by their own foibles and saddened by cruelty they see around them, but they do not lose hope – they are optimistic.

5. They are aware of the pattern of the cycle of life and they welcome the transitions from each to each – they are growing.

6. They are eager to learn about other people, relationships, life and the world – they are engaged.

7. They can enter the world and the experience of another, listen, appreciate and value without passing judgment, offering advice or wanting to modify what they see – they are intimate.

8. They have a few friendships of mutual vulnerability and deeper intimacy with one other person – they know others and are known.

9. They are involved in mutually satisfying relationships with immediate and extended family and have a rich family of choice – they are connected.

10. They are at peace more than they are unsettled, they can be calm in a crisis and can go without company when it is necessary – they are anchored.

11. They live and love deeply, they learn to trust and forgive deeply – they are passionate.

12. They can listen to others without speaking, and from the multiple voices around and within them, they can distinguish the voice of the sane and deliberate self – they are listeners.

13. They are regularly involved in hands-on service with people less fortunate than themselves – they serve others.

14. They can follow the instructions of others, when necessary, and take on tasks that benefit the community – they are followers.

15. They understand leadership as a role, not as a position, so they lead when it is their function to do so – they are leaders.

16. They know how much they need and do not need others and how much others do and do not need them – they are interdependent.

17. They can identify their own boundaries and become aware of the power and the restrictions of these boundaries – they are self-regulating.

18. They can see clearly that they have both strengths and weaknesses; yet, as much as is possible, they live from their strengths – they are empowered.

19. They achieve their personal and career goals while becoming more intimate with others – they are maturing.

20. They do not expect a problem-free or crises-free life, but through facing smaller problems as they occur, they equip themselves for whatever life brings – they are prepared.

21. They can talk themselves down when anxious, pull themselves together when afraid, gather their internal resources when threatened – they can self-soothe.

22. They can tell the truth to themselves and others – they are honest.

23. They acknowledge the role and assistance of others in their journey and development – they are humble.

24. They easily accept and indeed enjoy the differences in, and uniqueness, of others – they are tolerant.

25. They feel neither superiority nor inferiority in relation to all other people, perceiving themselves as truly equal members of the human community – they are free of prejudice.

Rod E. Smith, 1999, Copyright

July 27, 2006

Love is Listening

by Rod Smith

Love cannot be pretended. Nor can the art and skill of listening. Feeling loved is feeling heard. To listen is to profoundly love. If I say I love you then I am saying I am willing to hear you. I am willing to hear even the things I would rather you would not say. If I am truly loved I will be able to say, appropriately, the things that you would rather not hear.

Anyone willing can be a better listener, and therefore, a better lover.

When someone you love wants to talk, if you have no intention of listening, rather say so as kindly as possible. This, in itself, is an act of love. You will have overcome a hurdle of good listening: honesty. There will be times when you will not be available. In the same way, you too will not expect that others will always be available to hear you.

Listening, like love, has no tricks. It is genuine interest, expressed. It is entering the world of another, modifying nothing. It’s embracing the experience of another simply because of their intrinsic value apart from anything they might (or might not) be able to do for us.

When you listen, the angle at which you sit does not matter very much. If you are not listening, the other person will know. The depth of your stare into another’s eyes or the sincerity of your facial expression will not do it. People thousands of miles apart, connected by telephone or by mail can really hear each other. Others, seated on the same sofa, who are staring into each other’s eyes, can miss everything the other is trying to say.

Listen to your life. What is it saying? The words you use and the things you do, tell about the spiritual condition of your life, reflecting your heart. If you want to know about someone’s spirituality, listen to what the person says and the things he or she finds amusing. All behavior has meaning: the flat spin you are in and the endless hours you might spend at work, keeping you from family, mean something.

Listen to your life’s rhythms. Notice that some days you feel very healthy and things seem in balance: you can be sincerely nice to people. Other days are different! Listening to your life will alert you to when extra care in dealing with others would be helpful. If you cannot hear yourself you can hear no one.

When you feel intense emotions, listen intensely. Feelings are messages about the state of your life. They often bring helpful warnings. Try to understand what your emotions are communicating. A person can only deal with feelings when they are felt. Trying to deal with feelings when they are not felt is like trying to learn to ride a bicycle by looking at one. When you have understood your feelings, express them appropriately to someone you love. This is an act of love.

The effective listener listens to family members. If a person cannot listen to their partner, it is unlikely they will hear their children, or anyone else for that matter. Try to listen without waiting to speak. Leave your agenda for this time. Give your attention as a gift. Try not to argue, persuade or interrupt. If possible, listen by looking into eyes. Listen to body language. Take the focus off yourself. Is there anything a loved one is trying to say that you are not hearing? If what you are hearing is not pleasing to you, remind yourself that this is not your opportunity to speak. It is not your world being presented.

Listening does not mean that you have to be silent but anything you do say is an effort to clarify meaning. What you do say is not an attempt to steer the speaker in a certain direction or to have the speaker tell you what you want to hear. Listening is not interpreting what you hear but hearing what you hear. The goal of listening is to hear, not redirect, not elicit agreement, not moralize, and not teach. It has no other motive except to better understand the world and the experience of another.

Rod Smith, Copyright, 1998

July 27, 2006

A man with good boundaries……

by Rod Smith

A man with good personal boundaries will trust you so much it might feel uncomfortable, if in the past, you have dated less healthy (lower-functioning) men.

He also……

will not “fall in love at first sight” or even within a month, or very much longer
will not tell you everything about himself within the first few hours of meeting you
will not tell you all the details about his past relationships
will not expect to hear the details of your past relationships
will not blame others for things that do not go well in his life
will not be demeaning of your tastes, job, clothes, your status in life, even if his life is very different from yours
will not tell you how to dress (ever)
will not take your side against others when you might be right or when you might be wrong
will not insist on being right even if he knows he is
will not victimize you in any manner (even using humor)
will not want you to “spend the night” when you have just met
will not be rude to waiters or service persons no matter how bad the service may be
will expect you to have cordial interactions with your former romantic interests
will establish appropriate space from the outset and expect the same of you
will trust you to know what is sound and healthy for yourself, and expect you to to make your own sound assessments regarding whatever you face
will usually give generous tips even if service is not as good as it could be.

July 26, 2006

Symptoms of a Difficult Relationship

by Rod Smith

26 Indications you might be in a difficult or troubled relationship
(This is longer than my “normal” post. Please read it all, if you read it at all!)

Comments come to me as Emails. I will make time if you want to talk.

Comments come to me as Emails. I will make time if you want to talk.

When relationships become troubled, they are usually so for predictable reasons. Common themes are:

1. Women (yes, it usually is women) who “love” too much, who believe any man is better than no man.
2. Men and women who are in relationships where too much happened too soon and then things turned out very differently than expected.
3. Men and women who feel trapped in an abusive cycle or in a dead-end marriage who feel helpless at the prospect of making necessary, radical changes, and,
4. Men and women who discover that “love” (not the real thing of course) really is blind (and deaf and mute).

Always, with matters of the heart, let your head take the lead. Always speak up, even when speaking up puts the relationship in jeopardy. Always know that too much too soon is a sign of danger ahead. Always take the action required for your safety and well-being. Always be suspicious when someone who says they love you, wants to speak for you, decide things for you and gives you the impression that you are not quite capable of being a full person without their benevolent assistance. It is of course equally troubling when someone suggests they are not capable of being a complete person without your benevolent assistance.

Here are some ways (apart from those included above) that you might be in a difficult or troubled relationship:

1. You’re so used to walking on eggshells it feels like your world is covered in them!
2. You know that no matter how innocent or insignificant a disagreement might be it will get magnified out of all proportion.
3. You wish you could say something but when you do you, the payback is so grilling, grueling, and eternal that silence is preferable.
4. Innocent statements are misinterpreted, misquoted, and repeated incorrectly forever.
5. You whisper under your breath what you’d really like to scream loudly for the world to hear.
6. If you are silent you are avoiding conflict.
7. If you speak up or speak out you are “looking for trouble” or being unnecessarily confrontational or argumentative.
8. You have to watch your every word, smile, frown and subtle rolling of the eye since the smallest of actions on your part can carry super-sized meaning for your partner.
9. You tiptoe around hiding your wants, dreams, and ambitions.
10. You tolerate behavior from your significant other that you’d not tolerate from anyone else.
11. You fear fallout (divorce, separation) and yet want one. You’ve thought being abducted would be a better alternative than your current setup.
12. You fight about everything. There’s never a straight line between two simple desires or destinations. Everything is made more complex because jealousies, tensions and well-remembered history come between you when making the most simple of decisions.
13. You feel trapped by what is supposed to be love but have second thoughts (actually you’ve had a million thoughts!) about how love is supposed to feel.
14. You are usually wrong about everything and are repeatedly told you are stupid.
15. When you admit fault, even stupidity, you are at fault or weak for admitting it.
16. When you are right you are wrong for being right, then, when it clear you are right, you think you are perfect and trying to show others up.
17. In your “intimate” world white is black, black is white and the water is very murky. Up is down: down is up. Seeing happy couples makes you suspicious about what they must be hiding.
18. Your innocence is faked and you are told your innocence hiding real guilt.
19. Pointing out obvious errors or flaws in your partner is interpreted as entrapment.
20. Loving your partner (in their preferred manner) is not only emotionally exhausting it is impossible.
21. You are physically burned out and emotionally drained from trying to carry emotional needs of someone who cannot or will not take responsibility for meeting his or her own needs.
22. You secretly wish your partner would find someone else but then you wouldn’t want what you have endured visited on an enemy.
23. You are accused of seeing someone, of being unfaithful, or desertion when you pursue the most innocent of activities.
24. Your most innocent personal pursuits (reading, choosing when you go to bed, visiting friends, being with your family, shopping alone) are a waste of time or held under suspicion because you are choosing time away from your “partner.”
25. Your partner can do nothing alone and cannot fathom that you would want to anything that does not include them.
26. It feels like you are “sharing” life with an emotional piranha and yet, for some unfathomable reason you stay and feel unable to escape.

No one can abuse you without your cooperation. Put a stop to it today. If you are in danger, do everything it takes to get yourself to safety. Leave your husband if it is necessary. It is better to be safe than dead, free than “abducted” in the name of marriage. There are things more important than marriage – like patience, honor, respect, freedom, goodness and peace. If he says he loves you but you detect none of love’s qualities and are living in danger and fear, do whatever it takes to secure your safety. If you do not stand up to an abusive person, the abuse will accelerate and patterns establish themselves ever more firmly. Turn around begins within the heart and a good place to start is with a few simple decisions:

Take the Pledge of A Growing Person

I am a person with a history to be respected, a present to enjoy and a future to build. I am fully capable of living my life to the full. I do not need a man or a woman to make me complete although a respectful, equal and mutual relationship will enlarge my life. I will not be sidetracked by unhealthy relationships again. I will not build friendships, go out with, or become intimate with anyone who does not regard me with utmost respect. I want equality, honesty and trust in my relationships. I am better off single, alone and lonely than I am “sharing” my life with a man or woman who lies to me, cheats on me and disrespects me. I will start to move my life in a healthy direction despite the difficult hurdles that are in my path.

Rod Smith, Copyright, 2000

July 26, 2006

Healthy Relationships / Rate yourself

by Rod Smith

All relationships have the potential to be both healthy and unhealthy.

Here are signs of healthy relationships:

1. People are close because they choose to be. It is not forced, obligated, manufactured or pretended.

2. Sarcasm is never used. Remember sarcasm is the use of words so as to intentionally hurt or wound another.

3. Individuals can be unpredictable and free. Forgiveness is easily given both to others and self.

4. No one ever dominates, manipulates or intimidates anyone.

5. People listen.

6. People do not pretend they are okay when they are not.

7. People do not spend a lot of time analyzing their relationships.

8. People have both individual and shared goals.

9. Each person is permitted and indeed encouraged to speak, plan, choose and feel for him or herself. Others do not usurp these important functions: the individual is given his or her complete freedom.

10. People understand it is more important to love than it is to be right or to win.

11. People laugh a lot but not at each other.

12. People do not use each other to further their own (often hidden) goals.

Copyright, Rod E. Smith, 1998

July 26, 2006

How do you fix a relationship (that has been) burnt out by “lack of space”?

by Rod Smith

(This post HAS NOT been “finished” for the newspapers. It is a work in progress waiting for YOUR input – please comment and help other readers with your insight).

There is ALWAYS hope....

There is ALWAYS hope....

Remember there are NO easy answers when it comes to love and humanity and toxic love and fallen humanity.

It is very difficult, although not impossible, to “fix” a relationship that has been “burnt out” by “lack of space.” Sometimes, for grievously toxic couples, it might be impossible and a complete break-up may be necessary.

In a dating relationship a complete break (without the promise of something in the future) might be necessary. Yes. I mean a real and full and proper end to what was, with no hope or promise about restarting the relationship in the future.

In a marriage, the necessary journey toward simultaneous separateness and respectful togetherness is a tough, but achievable, one.

When emotional over-crowding (“space invasion”) has occurred, when two people, and for clarity’s sake I will call them Jack and Jill, have reached saturation point with each other, the very presence of Jack can send cold shivers down Jill’s spine. If Jill has felt invaded (consumed, overwhelmed, drowned) by Jack, this will only serve to make Jack become stronger in his attempts to re-establish the proximity he once knew. And the cycle continues (usually with even greater intensity).

At least one of the more difficult things for Jack to understand is that Jill wants to be without Jack, after having been so very “close.” It is difficult for him to understand how Jill could want, even enjoy, being without him.

Some separation (real separation) is probably required.

Both persons, during such a separation, will benefit from gathering their community around them for honest support.

Both persons, during such a separation, will benefit from seeing that there is life after this relationship, even if it does not feel like it.

Remember SPACE is needed because it was not there (established, discussed) in the first place! Everyone NEEDS space (separateness) and if this need is not met, the relationship will begin to shake and rattle and symptoms will begin to emerge in other areas within the relationship.

July 26, 2006

Appearance is everything – how to hurt your partner while looking innocent

by Rod Smith

Rod Smith, MSMFT

Please forgive my cynical tone, but I have seen three couples in the past few days who have perfected the art of hurting each other while remaining “perfectly innocent.” Here’s how to do it:

Bargain with sex. Use it as a reward for getting what you want. This will go a long way to grind down your partner’s confidence. If you are really good at this, you will feel somewhat like a puppeteer who is able to get whatever he or she wants out of a puppet. Over time, if your partner is sufficiently complaint (something you want to ensure!) you will always get your way in all areas of your life and being a loving partner will hold little challenge for you but to remain ahead of the game.

Be very passive. Withhold your opinions, insights and contribution from your partner in matters that hold little interest for you, yet be very vocal when things don’t turn out as you expect. Sit back. Leave all the important decisions (that do not really interest you) to your partner. Avoid getting fully involved yet leave room for blame. This is quite an art, but once perfected, it will serve you well.

July 25, 2006

Son (19) is dating a manipulative person

by Rod Smith

Reader: My husband and I are good friends after twenty-five years of marriage, four children, and two failed businesses. Every time I think we have seen it all life offers us another challenge. Our youngest son (19) is seeing a young woman (20) with a very “dark side” and manipulative way and he seems entranced with her. This is causing unnecessary anxiety. Formerly pleasant family events have become dark experiences either because he is brooding in her absence or because she is trying to get him away from the family while also “participating” in the event. Do we put our unified foot down and tell him “no more” or stand back and watch him make hurtful mistakes?

Rod’s reply: Your son is 19! Putting your foot down will probably only serve to alienate him at a time he most needs you. While he will make his own relationship decisions, it is appropriate he make such decisions against a backdrop of what those who have loved him longest (his parents) think.

Establish a time when both mom and dad tell him what you each see and think. This done – leave it to him. One can hope he will “see the light” and both young people will benefit from your loving observations.