Archive for January, 2010

January 30, 2010

It’s just how families are……

by Rod Smith

1. Anxiety is passed from generation to generation like a baton in a relay race – deal with it or it will deal with you.
2. Every time you want to step out and do something great, challenging, unusual, or generous, someone in your family (often it will be you, yourself) will try and stop you. (Friedman, Ed.)
3. Invisible loyalties (family ties) will stretch across oceans and often intensify with time and distance. Sometimes they are further intensified by death.
4. Peacekeeping (avoiding necessary conflict) will burn you out a lot quicker than peacemaking (inviting necessary conflict so resolution may be attempted).
5. Forgiveness takes one person; reconciliation takes at least two.
6. The challenge in intimate relationships is not (usually) the ability or willingness to be close, but the ability and the willingness to be sufficiently distinct and apart.
7. The test of a person’s integrity is not how he or she is in public but how he or she treats the persons to whom he or she is closest.

January 27, 2010

She wants to leave because of my daughters…..

by Rod Smith

“I am divorced and now live with my girlfriend. My two teenage daughters live with us. The problem is the daughters are very lazy and don’t do much around the house and leave it in a mess. They don’t have much respect and have bad attitudes. My girlfriend is fed up and can’t handle it anymore. We have tried talking to them and asking them to shape up but it only works for a few weeks. My girlfriend says she cannot live in the house with the girls and she is thinking about moving out. I’m stuck between sending my girls to their mother (which they don’t want) or losing my girlfriend.”

Stand up to your daughters -- it is a part of love

Your daughters have more power than you, your girlfriend, or they, can handle. Increase your tolerance for their pain by standing up to them despite the fallout. This is sometimes expected of a loving parent.

Encourage your girlfriend and daughters to discuss their problematic areas face-to-face. Go out while they do it. This might help all three women grow up.

My hunch is that your domestic issues are not about your unhappy trio or an untidy home. I believe they center on your inability to define what you want from life and the willingness to do all it takes to get it.

January 27, 2010

To the “casual” drinker…..

by Rod Smith

Alcohol in mom and dad hits children hard.....!

Your “casual” or “I can take it or leave it” relationship with alcohol might be more than casual if:

(a) It has caused stress in your relationships
(b) It has resulted in public embarrassment
(c) You crave a quick fix of beer or alcohol (and sometimes get it in secret)
(d) It has caused you to miss or be late for work
(e) You believe it’s the only way you can relax.

If any one of the five points hits home for you, your casual relationship with alcohol might have more power over you than you care to admit. But I am not going to try and talk you into seeing the truth behind your “casual” habit – and such convincing usually falls on deaf ears.

Nonetheless, if your “casual” drinking has caused you relational, social, psychological, physical, or professional discomfort, you can be sure it also causes your children pain. It probably puts them on guard and elevates their stress levels. Your drinking changes their world.

There’s a poignant moment in the movie “The Prince of Tides” when a character remarks something like, “Our parents drink and we get the hangover.”

January 25, 2010

Adult son writes to his mother….

by Rod Smith

Dear Mother:

I am 40 and I really am no longer “your baby.” Please try not to refer to me in this manner. It sounds completely ridiculous even though I know what you mean. I am a married man and the father of two children.

While I am at it, let me remind you that I adore my wife and would really appreciate it if you worked harder at not treating her as if she were some kind of outsider, intruder, servant, or secretary. Remember? You were at our wedding. She’s very much part of our family – and I am part of hers.

By the way, her parents are not “those people” but a man and woman whom I love and who have embraced me far more successfully than I think you have embraced their daughter.

I know you are going to resent hearing this but I have to say it: I cannot drop everything and run to your assistance every time you phone. Mother, there are plumbers, electricians, doctors, lawyers, bankers, and an endless list of places for you to get your car repaired – and really, there’s very little you cannot afford.

With love (yes, love),
Your son

January 24, 2010

My wife is addicted to her cellphone….

by Rod Smith

“My wife is addicted to her cell phone. Nothing I say or do will convince her otherwise. The woman is constantly on her phone talking or text-messaging. She sleeps with her phone, clutching it like a child may clutch a stuffed toy. She cannot bear to have her phone out of her sight for even a minute. My wife has even text-ed people during sex! Forget about having a conversation or watching a movie together. It just isn’t going to happen. I have tried to discuss this issue with her but she just stares back at me. All attempts at meaningful conversation or at just spending time together are nothing more than exercises in futility. What really hurts me is the fact that my wife, who is an intelligent woman, does not see the problem or, if she does, she refuses to get help. In the meantime, I am lost. My wife is literally destroying our marriage and refuses to do anything about it.”

ACT, Australia

FROM JEAN HATTON in AUSTRALIA: Have you considered getting through to your wife by texting her yourself? If this is the only kind of communication that she immerses herself in, perhaps you can let her know your struggle via your own cell.

The fact that she texts even during sex causes me to wonder what the health of your marriage was like before she became addicted to her cell. State (Text) your case and comments to her and then find help for what your options are concerning your marriage relationship.

Reacting to her will only send you deeper into your own powerlessness.

Self-examine, first.....

Rod’s response: Dozen of facetious responses have crossed my mind, but I’ll resist. Your marriage, wife, and consequently you, require a powerful, face-to-face professional intervention.

This inordinate attachment cannot occur in a vacuum – so I’d suggest the phone is a symptom and not the cause.

Begin with ruthless self-assessment.

January 23, 2010

Fear of being alone…..

by Rod Smith

“I do everything I can to satisfy my husband only to be disrespected any and everywhere. He has choked me, left me, convinced me to co-sign for a car for him, lied about my friends. He had his brothers disrespect me, kissed other women’s hands in front of me. He talks about the women in front of me with his friends in seductive ways. I still feel like he will change one day and we will live happy ever after. I know this is a fairy-tale belief. I’m afraid that he will leave me and stay gone. I don’t feel like I can live without him. I have gone back to church and it is helping a lot. When he starts his mess I turn on my gospel music and he takes his drunk-self to sleep. I’ve learned that he cannot argue by himself. I’m praying about my situation. It’s just me being afraid to be alone again.” (Edited from comments)

While you are an expert in HIS behavior and unwilling to see your participation in your demise the toxic dance will persist. Until you “see the light”, and gather a community of women to support you, and are sufficiently courageous to call his bluff, he will not change. It is you who must.

January 18, 2010

Use your THINKING brain (think inside the box)…..

by Rod Smith

Helpful METAPHOR….

(I am deeply influenced by Rabbi Friedman, Peter Steinke, and Murray Bowen – who have each written on these matters and written most profoundly so – Peter’s book “How your church family works” was my primary influence in revolutionizing how I see and understand my own brain. I give Peter full credit for any resemblance you may see to his work. While it is neither copied nor “lifted”, one cannot read something and love something so much without it reverberating in one’s work.)

Getting to BOX 3 ASAP will save you a lot of hardship

Think of your (human) brain as three living boxes, placed one inside the other, residing inside your skull. Mammals get the “inside” two boxes – reptiles, poor things, get only one.

The smallest box, the stem, doesn’t think. It works. Protects. It’s humorless. It’s not the “feeler” or “thinker.” It’s got no room for such nonsense. Every time you want to EXPLODE, when you get anxious, feel like hiding, or hitting, your stem is trying to dominate! The greater your anxiety, the more your inner-reptile will want to break out.

The stem, your primal, instinctual, reptilian center, serves to protect you and keep your vital organs running. It will throw you under a table if there’s an explosion and put you into attack mode if you (or someone you love) is threatened. Turtles, snakes, polar bears, and dogs have stems – doing as much for them as yours does for you. Your stem is not creative; it doesn’t have the brains to be.

You might have to invite a friend, on occasion, to step out of his or her stem. But be careful, stem-bound men and women are humorless! And, they bite.

If you want to punch someone who disagrees with you, or run away from all “stupid” people – you are probably stem-bound. You’ve allowed your stem (your Reacting) to dominate. I’d suggest you shift gears (shift boxes) before hurt someone or lose your job. When you find you are overly reactive you have to tell your stem “to get back in your box! Do your job. Stop trying to think.”

Box 2 is the Limbic Box and it is much larger than the stem and feels it is much more important. It is not. It is different. This is the “feelings” or “emotion center.” Give yourself enough time in this box and you will hear country music blaring from all sides and you’ll see “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books everywhere.

Linger in the limbic and you will feel overwhelmed. It is an essential place to visit but you don’t want to live here. This is a place reserved for mammals and humans. No matter how much you love your pet alligator, it simply doesn’t have fun. It doesn’t have the brains for fun. Your dog does. That is why fun with your dog is really a mutual (but not equal) experience. Throwing a ball in the yard might be fun for you but it is the pinnacle of joy – every time – for your dog.

Ever felt really sorry for yourself? Like absolutely no one cares, especially after ALL you’ve done? Do you find yourself singing “I’m-so-lonesome” songs and “I-feel-so left out” songs? You have been spending far too much time in your feeling or I-Need-Empathy Box. This is a warm and welcoming place but it is not built for thinking. Move on to the Think Tank (Box 3) where you can get some useful work done.

Box 3 is your Neo-Cortex and it is larger than the stem and the limbic. This is the creative, distinctly human dimension of your brain. It governs (or tries to govern) the stem and the limbic. It is your “Think Tank.” It’s the Art Studio, the Creative Center. Here you’ll find Einstein posters, wild lists, cartoons, and drawings reminding you of all the possibilities you have seen for your life plastering the walls. It is from here you engage in creative discussions (“I think therefore I am”) about marvelous possibilities.

This is communication central, the clearinghouse of ideas large and small, this is the funny farm, the place you get your funniest thoughts and ideas. This is where humor, spirituality, appreciation of the finer things in life, and prayer, begin and thrive.

No matter how much you love your pet mammal he just cannot share your spiritual space with you. He doesn’t have the brains for it. The developed neo-cortex is reserved for humans only. Visit this, your “seize the day” room as much as possible and try to have all your “thoughts” about your reactions, feelings, and actions walk around this room for examination before you make a move.

Time spent in Box 3 is (usually) good for you. It’s your humor center, your envisioning center – it’s a platform of endless possibilities and the place from which you greatness will really emerge.

All three “brain boxes” can be “visited” in an instant: I enter a shop and search for an item. I cannot find what I need or anyone to help me and I am in a hurry. My Stem (the fuse box) wants me “blow a fuse” and walk out never to return! Limbic, which feels abandoned, kicks in. I tell myself, “After all my loyalty. After shopping here for 20 years, you’d think someone would recognize me, and care.” Then Cortex pipes up and says: “Ah! You are bright, resourceful and every one is busy. You can find anything you need on your own. Seize this great opportunity!”

Rod E. Smith
(317) 694 8669

January 17, 2010

She dates unsavory men….

by Rod Smith

“Our daughter (23) seems committed to going out with the most unsavory characters. It is as if she wants to spite her father and me. I can handle it but it drives my husband crazy. He can hardly look at her anymore and seems to have lost all respect for her. She doesn’t seem to care one way or another which she says is a mark of her maturity. I am not asking you how to get my daughter to be different or to get my husband to change. I want to know why my daughter would so willingly keep doing what she knows causes her dad great pain?” (Edited)

Get out of the way so he can know his daughter.

Your daughter is an adult – and if she is mature in her ways, she would not be dating “unsavory characters” in order to spite you or your husband. Healthy people do not use some people in order to make a point with others.

If her dating is out of character for her, and if it is a result of her immaturity – it is unlikely she, or anyone, will be able to tell you what is motivating her – or that knowing the reasons will make the slightest difference.

I’d suggest you do all you can to support your husband, stay out of the middle, and refuse to try and explain his daughter’s behavior to him.

January 13, 2010

Leadership woes….

by Rod Smith

Behind the smile.....!

Leadership of your organization (church, synagogue, mosque, hospital, or school) is troubled when:

1. The leader (or leaders) seeks only good news and discredits and discounts negative feedback.
2. Underlings protect the leader from the real truth, real numbers, or what the people are really saying. Underlings run interference and see it as “caring” for the leader.
3. The economy, marketplace, competition, government, or a combination of all are repeatedly blamed for the state of the organization.
4. There are “inner-circle” persons who know the real scoop on what’s going on while others are left guessing.
5. Gossip is rampant and an air of secrecy prevails.
6. People feel trapped but cannot necessarily understand why or how.
7. Planned events to get people together, or to create “buy in” or to “honor everyone” (or dinners, socials) feel contrived because such events are ways to avoid the the real issues and avoid necessary conflict.
8. Behind a ready (public) smile is a short-fused angry man or woman who is set off (in private) by minimal inconveniences.
9. Phrases like “let me remind you who the leader is” and “I don’t want to play the heavy hand but…” mark the encroaching authoritarian edge in the organization.
10. Severed or strained relationships remain unresolved but “life goes on.”

January 13, 2010

She stops her medication…….

by Rod Smith

“My wife (second marriage for us both) left me a few weeks ago after 10 years. She is bi-polar and stops taking her medication. When I told her that her son was using drugs and she was furious with me. I always supported her when he got caught for stealing, fraud, using drugs, and when he was in rehab. He’s back on drugs, having stolen us blind during the past year. This was common. I have not

Get off HER roller-coaster

laid charges against him because I just couldn’t do that to my wife. During the 10 years I saw very little of my children because she didn’t like them. In December she said she ‘never wanted to see’ her son again after a severe incident with drugs and theft. What am I to do? I am still madly in love with her, but she said I killed her love for me. I just can’t take her children’s interference.” (Letter heavily edited)

There are no simple solutions. She is bi-polar and you are riding her roller-coaster. Get off it and into the drivers seat of your life no matter how tough my challenge seems to be. You have NO POWER over her but MUST assume your legitimate power over yourself. Reconnect with your children if they will allow it.