Archive for November, 2010

November 30, 2010

Twelve good workplace habits no matter what your position….

by Rod Smith

1. Don’t take sides when faced with a conflict that does not involve you.
2. Don’t gossip or pass on information that is none of your business.
3. Don’t use the Internet for personal reasons while you are at work.
4. Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth.
5. Ask for clarity (instructions, guidelines) when you face new tasks.
6. Ask for feedback regarding how you are performing and for constructive criticism.
7. Ask about company culture if you are not sure what’s appropriate in any setting.
8. Ask about the history of the company and what are its long-term aspirations.
9. Return calls.
10. Leave succinct and accurate messages.
11. Say “thank you” more than you say anything else.
12. Solve problems, not people.

November 29, 2010

The loss of our unborn child hit me very deeply as a dad….

by Rod Smith

“In three years my wife and I have found it difficult to speak of the loss of our unborn child. This hit me very severely and all I want to say is that people usually brush this sort of thing off as if men don’t feel it as much, and as if it is somehow a good thing to miscarry. The last thing I wanted to hear was ‘you can try again’ or “these things happen for a reason’ or ‘it’s for the best’ or ‘God knows what He’s doing’. It is not that I want everyone to understand or to feel the pain like I do but I do suggest people rather withhold their editorial opinion when expressing their sympathy.” (Edited)

Thanks for drawing attention to the pain fathers also feel. Thanks for helping us all become wiser when faced with these difficult matters.

November 28, 2010

The 4-Fs of intimacy-avoidance…

by Rod Smith

Attraction is only enduringly possible.....

Do you have the energy to fight for intimacy?

Flight: Running from intimacy – keeping an emotional arm’s length from those who appear want something more, something deeper. This, of course, is not literally running away. People can flee “inside” while appearing to widely embrace others. Often the life and soul of a party, these men and women are frequently attractive and made more so, for some, by their illusiveness.

Fright: Fearing being taken over, or of being “occupied”, this person is constantly on duty, like an armed sentry against a hidden enemy. He or she can scare others almost-involuntarily through expressions of misplaced anger and socially inappropriate behaviors. “He’d edgy. He’s scary. I am not sure why,” you might hear yourself saying.

Fight: Combating sincere attempts at intimacy, this person fights in order to keep people away, even if no one is trying to get closer. Everything becomes about winning or losing; fighting is a way of life, winning is everything. “Just when we get close,” you might find yourself saying, “he/she finds some difficulty with something inextricably me.”

Freeze: Isolating, (“ice-olating”) this person neither runs nor attacks, he or she simply remains emotionally immobilized. This is control through passivity. “The closer I get the more vacant (absent, terrified) he/she appears.” The pursuer will appeal, work, wave, rant, and stamp – to little avail.

November 28, 2010

A more authentic Christmas….

by Rod Smith

Attraction is only enduringly possible.....

Sleep in a dumpster....

Looking and longing for a more “authentic” Christmas? Do you want to return to its real meaning, identify with Jesus more than you see done in the surrounding culture?

I have a few suggestions to facilitate your desire. Granted, this is not easy as we do not live in a territory occupied by a foreign power whose representative despises locals and is especially violent toward infant boys after getting wind that one will be born who will be greater than he is.

In your journey to be “in touch” with the birth of the Christ-child, start by walking to say, Chicago, Cleveland, or Cincinnati. Take a donkey (or ride a camel) to St Louis. Wherever you choose to go, plan to arrive by Christmas Eve. Have at least one very pregnant teen-ager (a non-relative) of about 13 or 14 in your party.

The ride, the discomfort, the lack of certainty about accommodations and the welfare of mother and baby along the way will enhance your appreciation of the season and sharpen your perceptions of how ridiculously off-target are our current traditions with sterile stables, plastic donkeys, unbounded shopping and a world hung with mistletoe.

Take no money. Be prepared to be turned away by family and motel managers alike. You are accompanied by a pregnant, delusional teen who, apart from being no one’s wife, claims “innocence” regarding the pregnancy. Her claim that an angel said she’d conceive a child by God more than alienates your party from usual societal pleasantries, and you end up with a makeshift accommodation between two dumpsters at the rear of a very cheap rent-by-the-hour motel.

On the journey, chat here and there about the political leader who slaughters all the boys in the Midwest. He has spurts of uncontrolled power and an inordinate degree of submission from the troops who carry out his wishes. Remind yourself that for weeks, months and years to come, parents will mourn endlessly over the loss of their infant boys.

You get to successfully hide your infant from the brutal eye of the murderous leader, but this is little consolation, for although you are very grateful that the baby will not be murdered as an infant, you can hardly dispel the knowledge that he will, nonetheless, be ruthlessly murdered as an adult.

As you choose a parking lot behind a motel in South Bend or Toledo, reflect on the oddness of the child’s conception and the rumor you hear that he will “save” people from their sins. This thought both encourages and disturbs you. You literally fall to the ground and worship a God who has given such a privilege while remaining aware of how those who seek no salvation usually treat self-proclaimed saviors.

The cattle are lowing, yes, but have you ever spent the night with an ox? Have you noticed how much distance you keep from the animals at the state fair? There’s good reason for that. Somehow the lowly manger has become a sanitized, cozy corner. Live in a dumpster, add a few stray farm animals and let a few wild goats, dogs and rats enter regularly from stage left and stage right, and you are more likely to create something of the environment of the first Christmas.

Let there be no gifts, no tree, no glitter. Christmas earmarks the beginning of the second phase of a remarkably courageous journey of love, adventure and commitment on behalf of a determined God. The gift is in the risk. The value is in the danger. The generosity is within the sheer lunacy that God constantly loves a recalcitrant humanity.

The UPS truck arriving at your door with a gift from Aunt Joan in Ohio does nothing to reflect the spirit of generosity that was evident with the coming of the Christ-child unless Aunt Joan has given everything she ever owned or valued, and, at the cost of her life, packed it off to you for Christmas.

November 26, 2010

Follow your heart? No! Follow your head……

by Rod Smith

I get a little peeved when cartoons portray a passive therapist repeating how do you feel? as if feelings are the cornerstone of effective therapy. In decades of therapeutic encounters how do you feel?may be the question I have asked least.

Feelings are deceptive. Fleeting. Feelings offer a poor guide to healthy action and often trap clients in inaction.

Thinking is what makes the difference. I am far more interested in what my clients THINK than I am in what clients FEEL. Of course I acknowledge the importance of feelings, but I am careful to avoid elevating feelings so they trump thinking.

I believe people think their way into a new and helpful ways of behaving.

The head (thinking) is a far more-trustworthy leader than the heart.

I have seen many a client think (read, plan, plot, negotiate, strategize) his or her way out of an overwhelming personal dilemma while he or she was, at the same time, FEELING overwhelmed, debilitated, incapable of doing anything.

Getting your head into gear can pull your entire life into a whole new realm of helpful, good feelings, which of course, as I said, are not to be overly trusted.

November 26, 2010

My sons in London and hardly ever make contact…

by Rod Smith

“My sons (22, 24) live in London and hardly ever make contact with us. This is very painful as we have always been a close family. What happens to young people when they go overseas? My friends tell me it is because sons and they are made to fly away. I am not sure who takes it worse, their father or me. If they do phone we feel we can’t say anything as it might stop the phone calls completely. Please help.” (Edited)

Attraction is only enduringly possible.....

Some routine might help.....

Suggest a routine – perhaps a phone call every two weeks on a Sunday evening, their time. If you know when to expect a call it is less likely that your anxiety will spike daily in the hopes that they will call.

Also, suggest each son establishes his own phoning routine.

The “made to fly” theory I do not think holds much water. When I have met young South Africans overseas I’ve met very busy men and women who are often working more than one job, sharing sparse accommodations, and who are busy trying to establish themselves while often longing to be at home in South Africa.

November 24, 2010

I feel ashamed because I am back in the same situation….

by Rod Smith

“After a five-year abusive relationship I took two years to reflect and think. Then I met a boyfriend two years ago who was perfect for me. About a month into the relationship he started telling me he had a problem with the way I dress. I had told him all about the abuse in my last relationship. He told me my ex was crazy and that I am beautiful and that he should have been proud to be with me. So the guy who said my ex should have been proud of me is now the guy saying no skirts, no shorts, and no dresses. I’m not allowed to dye my hair black: it makes me look easy. If guys look at me it’s my fault. I feel ashamed because I’m back in the same situation as before and feel super dumb.” (Edited)

A man who has to control a woman does so for many reasons, none of which have anything to do with the woman. Perhaps it’s time to take another sabbatical from men. While you obey things will not improve. He told you HE has a problem with the way you dress after a month – and you are still with him 23 months later!

November 24, 2010

I never thought I’d be the one to have an affair…

by Rod Smith

“I never thought I’d be the one to have an affair. I work with a man who is 15 years younger and I have become obsessed with him. Now, after a wild three weeks, he is pulling back and is guilt ridden. He won’t take my calls. He won’t look at me. He’s probably going to change his job to get away. This is driving me insane for so many reasons. My husband of 25 years has no idea but to think something is up since I have been so irrational. I had no idea I could become so trapped by my own thoughts and behaviors. I’ve gone from feeling self-righteous about women who cheat to feeling like a criminal. Please help.” (Edited)

1. Go cold turkey – this means no contact, no calls, no chasing, and no emails – nothing. You cannot get over something you have found this powerful if you keep feeding it.

2. Get professional help. A trained person will guide you through the quagmire of trying to make sense of the nonsense you have co-created.

I have been overwhelmed with the response to “Give Something Away Every Day” as published on Friday November 19th, 2010. If you’d like to join or read the stories please go to GSAED on Facebook.

November 22, 2010

Should I trust my son (9) when he says he won things at school?

by Rod Smith

My son (9) comes home from school with things that he says he traded or he won. They are small toys and games. Should I trust him or should I check it out with the school. Stealing is not beyond his capabilities?

I’m inclined to suggest you err on the side of trust than impose your suspicions upon your son. When he tells you he won or traded these items you are surely aware that he is doing what children have done for generations.

I clearly recall trading marbles, yo-yos, Durban City soccer cards (I couldn’t get rid of my Durban United and Addington cards quickly enough) and all manner of items on the Northlands Primary soccer field – without ever stealing.

Clearly there is some history regarding your son and stealing but I’d rather be fooled for trusting too much than be guilty of trusting too little.

While we are talking about trading and soccer cards, I think I have an “Alan Varner” and I really want a “George Wooten.” Any offers?

Reminder: “Love in Harsh Palces” contest will end November 30th. Submit, by email, your 200-word account where you encountered love where it was least expected. Prize: $200 Exclusive Books Gift Card.

November 22, 2010

My husband calls me stupid…

by Rod Smith

“My husband calls me stupid. He gives me the ‘silent treatment’ for days. He says things like ‘I’ll talk to you when you say something intelligent’. What am I to do?” (Edited)

Attraction is only enduringly possible.....

Equals, not opposites, attract - when it comes to levels of functioning.

Romantic attraction resulting in marriage is usually only possible with persons of similar emotional maturity and psychological functioning. Given you are married, and presuming he is too bright to have been tricked into marriage – I’d suggest he is equally as “stupid” as he perceives you to be.

But, hold that thought. Expressing it to him is likely to generate unhelpful conflict.

Remove yourself when he’s abusive, and, at least for a time, hold your tongue. The less you respond the greater will be the possibility that he will hear his own cruelty. For a few days, even weeks, offer no comeback to stoke his fire or stroke his foolishness.

Then, when the atmosphere is right (few couples fight round the clock) initiate a conversation. Tell him how his words damage both of you, how unattractive it is to be labeled, debased. Suggest his callousness says nothing about you and everything about him. Inform him that even “stupid women” have limits to accommodating abuse, and that he ought to seek professional help before he grinds all the goodwill out of his marriage forever.