Archive for April, 2011

April 18, 2011

I constantly struggle with guilt

by Rod Smith

“I’m 18 and my girlfriend is 16. She is very high maintenance. She always finds something to be upset about, and I can do everything to make her happy and she’ll find something that I did wrong. I constantly struggle with guilt and feel like a bad boyfriend. I will say she is very spoiled. She is used to getting her way. Once I refused to let her come over to my house because I needed some time to myself. She went crazy saying that she is always the one consoling and whenever it comes to her problems she never gets to talk about them. She always holds things in and I get yelled at because she didn’t want to talk about something. I’m just wondering if this has a good chance of becoming better. It has only gotten worse after 9 months. Is this all teenage emotions or does something need to be fixed?”

I’d suggest something needs to be addressed. The tough news is that you are probably not going to be the one who helps her fix it. It appears that this relationship is doing neither of you much good. It might be time for you to allow her to secure the kind of help she really needs.

April 16, 2011

Don’t chase anyone, ever

by Rod Smith

“I’m a single mother of a one month beautiful boy. His father loved me before I was pregnant. He wanted a baby with so much and I did not. I was busy trying to build a life. I fell pregnant and I love my son. His father was unavailable through out the pregnancy. He wanted to give our son his last name but my family refused because we are not married. I want him back. He says begging him is unattractive and that he will come back when he wants to. It’s hard because my son hasn’t had a chance to have a family. He’s walked into an emotionally broken mother.” (Edited)

Chasing is a waste of energy

Don’t chase anyone – ever. The energy required to woo the father back into your life, even if you are successful, will be insignificant next to the energy it will take to keep him.

Your son may well have “walked into an emotionally broken mother” but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Resume your pre-pregnancy quest to build your life.

Living a full, satisfying life yourself will be the greatest act of mothering you will ever offer your son – go for it. Live the kind of life you hope he will live one day and he will have something to emulate.

April 14, 2011

Great weekends are made of this…..

by Rod Smith

How to have a great weekend in 7 easy steps

Clean up (apologize, clarify, tie lose ends, write thank you cards) before you leave your workplace.

Call ahead before you leave work. Inform your family that you are expecting to play your part in creating a fabulous weekend.

Unplug until Monday. Turn off all technology (cell phones, SMS ability, Internet, computers, television, and electronic games) and encourage all in your household to do the same.

Focus on the people with whom you are face-to-face. Give them your full attention. This means listening (without waiting to speak, looking into each others eyes, not multi-tasking while talking). It means loving the person, the moment, and the immediate conversation.

Avoid negative talk especially about the economy, the political atmosphere, work, your boss, and people with whom you have conflict.

Stay at home – eat at home, invite neighbors to a meal having informed them that you are have a tech-free weekend.

If you are a parent ban all talk, for the entire weekend, about children. If you cannot do this, it is a fine indication that you might be in need of a shift of focus for your own sake and especially for the sake of your children.

April 12, 2011

Pre-school to the presidency – if you are a leader……

by Rod Smith

If you are a leader of anything – Pre-school to Presidency….

Leadership is often lonely

1. The process, understanding and identifying the underlying pressures within your organization, trumps the content, detail, and the day-to-day minutia. You can have all the details in place and be sabotaged because you failed to see, or you ignore, the hidden tensions that exist in every organization.

2. The people and an appreciation of the inestimable value of others, trumps programs, or the implementation of plans and procedures. You can have perfect plans and procedures to implement your perfect programs, only to fail because you failed to appreciate the people around you.

3. Relationships, knowing the people with whom you share life, trumps hierarchy of who is more important than whom. The “lower” down the hierarchy a leader forms authentic relationships – the more credible will be his or her leadership.

4. Openness and transparency, allowing oneself to be known and allowing oneself to get to know others, trumps covert or undisclosed agendas inhabiting all complex organizations. What’s hidden will bring greater damage to your leadership than what is revealed.

5. Negotiation and dialogue, the willingness to enter into discussion and engage in debate, trumps a dictatorial, top-down style of leadership. Top-down styles bring some heartless, temporary obedience – authentic dialogue fosters creative, long-term, relationships.

April 11, 2011

She is a constant downer…..

by Rod Smith

“My daughter (25) is constant downer. She enjoys little, complains much, and is always negative. If it is not the economy it is world politics. She is sad about the education of her children and complains we didn’t move to another country when she was a child. Her husband has to work at being the ‘up’ person or she brings a cloud to everything. What can I do to help?”

While there is a lot to be down about, being constantly down is not very helpful.

Suggest your daughter get a full medical examination with a view to treating possible depression.

If your daughter is one who is prone to see the proverbial glass half empty and is not suffering from a clinical depression (only diagnosable by medical or psychological professional) I’d suggest she do the moving she claims you failed to do.

Even if she does move, she will discover that negativity cannot be outrun. It will move with her no matter where she lives. Of course it is not where a person lives but how one lives that gives any degree of fulfillment and contentment.

If she is not clinically depressed and does not need medical help, I’d suggest you do all you can to avoid her attempts to sabotage your happiness.

April 8, 2011

The power of friendship

by Rod Smith

Friendship is the ultimate compliment.

Friendship IS the most powerful and important gift one person can offer another.

You can be someone’s child, parent, grandparent, doctor, lawyer, counselor, spouse, or benefactor – and not be his or her friend.

I see it frequently: men and women who are better friends to “outsiders” than they are to “insiders.”

But when you are someone’s friend, all other roles become secondary – even that of parent or spouse.

I am not suggesting parents and children ought to be pals or best friends in some odd arrangement of twisted roles. I have no desire to be my child’s best friend and nor does either one of my sons have a need for more friends. My sons need me to be their dad. But when being my sons’ dad is accomplished on my behalf, I trust we will continue as friends.

Yes. There is an end to our role as parents. When the time comes (around your son or daughter’s mid-twenties) I hope you and I will find the transition into that of a friend, easy.

When you are friends with anyone (family or not) – freedom, grace, openness, forgiveness, necessary confrontations, generosity, and the sharing of life’s delights and life’s pain become the currency in which you operate.

April 8, 2011

Do you need therapy? Here’s a quick list to guide you……

by Rod Smith

Family meetings!

The following are pointers (two are enough) to suggest you could use therapeutic help with your family, relationships, and your faith:

1. Being part of your family feels mechanical, rigid. You feel locked in – you are an actor in someone’s play and you don’t particularly like your assigned role.
2. No matter how hard you try, things (tensions, roles, anxieties, problems) stay the same. Faces and circumstances modify over the years but the stresses and the issues remain constant.
3. At family holidays (Christmas and Thanksgiving most intensely) you feel pressure about where to be. You are the rope in a tug-of-war.
4. You feel intimidated when speaking with your parents about anything meaningful even though you are an adult. You knees get weak at the thought of engaging your parents about substantial matters.
5. Old arguments often resurface; minor disagreements seem monumental – there’s little sense of proportion and little things are blown up into huge issues.
6. You find it easy to talk about your parents but find it difficult to talk to them. You’re loaded with material about them but feel silenced when it comes to taking with them.
7. Feelings of loyalty and disloyalty can rage within and you feel pressure to compromise your integrity with your family of origin (parents, siblings, grandparents).
8. Your career and family life interfere with each other. It seems as if you can’t have both with any degree of success.
9. New relationships get intense very quickly (becoming sexual, manipulative, or controlling) despite genuine attempts to make things different “this time.”
10. You enthrone (make saints) and dethrone (make sinners) people rather rapidly. Your heroes quickly prove fallible and you are disappointed once again.

Call me / Skype me (RodESmithMSMFT) / Email me – I can probably help you or steer you to someone who can.

April 7, 2011

Open your hand

by Rod Smith

Open your hand using all your strength. Stretch your fingers. Allow the lines on your palm to feel as though they might tear apart. Study the contours, colors, ridges and valleys, joints, dents and spaces. Push, pull, and rub. Move your fingers through their paces: together, apart, back, forward, curved, strained and relaxed, cooperative yet unique. Feel the texture and every curve. Touch the crevices. Spread your hand further, turn it at the wrist, examine and compare patterns from every angle. Here are pieces of yourself you might never have studied.

Your hands are your constant companions. They have met the needs of others, pioneered romantic moments and worn rings of commitment. They are the way your heart leaves fingerprints, the eyes at the end of your arms. Hands reflect a person’s being and are the front line agents of your life. If eyes are said to be the windows of a soul, hands express the soul.

Hold other people with your hand thoroughly open. Allow them to know the warmth and welcome of your hand, investigate its curves and benefit from its scars. Invite others to follow the lines into the fabric of your life and see the risks you have taken and the adventures that are yours. Allow them to wrestle and rest, search, see and speak. Let them stay; let them go, but let them find your hand always open.

The Open Hand of friendship, at its widest span, is most rewarding, most challenging and most painful, for it enduringly acknowledges the freedom others have while choosing not to close upon, turn on, coerce, or manipulate others. In such friendships, expectations and disappointments become minimal and the reward is freedom. As others determine a unique pace within your open hand, they will see freedom and possibly embrace their own with excitement and pleasure.

Openhanded people do not attempt to “fix” others, change, or control others even for their own good. Rather, each person is given freedom to learn about life in his own way. Openhanded people, instead, express kindly and truthfully what they think and feel, when asked, knowing even in the asking, others might not be interested or willing to learn.

The Open Hand is not naive. It is willing to trust, while understanding and accepting that no person is all good or all bad, and that all behavior has meaning. The Open Hand is convinced it cannot change others; it cannot see or think or feel or believe or love or see for others, but trusts people to know what is good themselves. It will not strong-arm, pursue or even attempt to convince others because it has little investment in being right, winning or competing. Here is offered a core-freedom of the deepest and most profound nature: allowing others to live without guilt, shame and expectation.

Further, the Open Hand offers oneself freedom that extends to one’s memories, ambitions, failures and successes. This allows for growth of enduring intimacy, greater personal responsibility, authentic autonomy, and the possibility of meaningful relationships with others.

In the discovery of a closed hand, even at the end of your own arm, do not try to pry it open. Be gentle. Allow it to test the risky waters of freedom. As it is accustomed to being closed and fist-like, it will not be easily or forcefully opened. So let the closed-handed do their own releasing and trusting, little by little, and in their own time and manner.

When openhanded people meet, lives connect in trust, freedom and communion. Community is set in motion. Creativity is encouraged. Mutual support is freely given. Risks are shared. Lives are wrapped in the safety of shared adventure and individual endeavor all at the same time.

April 7, 2011

Is your family “open” or “closed” handed?

by Rod Smith

Attraction is only enduringly poss

Clenched or open?

Openhanded Families are close and healthy. People feel free, unique and have a sense of community. There is enduring approval. Disapproval’s short-lived. The love does not feel overwhelming. Love is not a trap, trade, or deal. Pressures from outside the family, the opinions of others, societal trends do not significantly modify the family’s direction. The family is internally driven. Relationships are self-sustaining. Each person, to differing degrees, dependent upon level of maturity, understands that every person in the family desires, at one and the same time, both community (togetherness, intimacy), and separateness (autonomy, independence).

It is within the movement, wrestling, imbalance, and the struggle that emerges from healthy families, that each person is empowered to be a unique person.

The freedom enjoyed by healthy people, embraces the family member who, for whatever reason, chooses to be less involved with the family.

Ironically, such families can appear to be less healthy or unhealthy because they diversity is welcomed and individuals can be “all over the map.”

In an openhanded family a person can look, believe, feel, and speak very differently than everyone else in the family without having to face negative consequences.

(Interested persons are encouraged to read the work of Virginia Satir).

Closedhanded Families are “close” in a different way. They believe and need uniformity and control to keep people together. Togetherness is all-important. There is often disapproval between members of the family, often discernible when someone in the family will not “stay in line,” live in the family “box” or enjoy the closeness. In such families, people are “overly” close. “Closeness” (uniformity, togetherness) is insisted upon, even demanded. People feel cornered through an intricate play of rejection, judgment, and “love.”

Here, rather than relationships being self-sustaining, they are held together by musts and shoulds and hidden rules arising from an obscure idea of what constitutes a relationship and a family. In such families there are frequent tensions often from an unidentifiable source. A person can easily get the feeling that he or she is walking a tight rope of being “in” or “out.”

These families are reactive or legalistic and bonds are not chosen and togetherness is covertly coerced or overtly forced. In these families, fusion is mistaken for love and expressing the natural and God-given desire for autonomy is regarded as betrayal.

Ironically, these families can appear healthy to outsiders because of the appearance of togetherness, while some of the people within the family might be “dying” from the pressure to conform.

In a Closed-handed family a person can only look, feel, believe and speak differently than everyone else in the family according to the guidelines. Anything else might result in overt expulsion, a subtle shunning, or covert distancing.

April 7, 2011


by Rod Smith

• renders you partially deaf to what others are saying to you and you will tend to hear what you want to hear
• renders you partially blind to what is going on around you and will see what you want to see
• renders you hyper-sensitive to what others are doing and not doing and less aware of your own behavior

You will reduce your levels of anxiety if you….

“De-triangle” yourself by getting out of the middle of relationships that do not directly involve you (like stop trying to get your son to like his stepfather, your mother to like your wife, your boss to spend more time with his children).

Re-connect (appropriately) with people to whom you are related – especially when it is by “blood” (it is virtually impossible to be enduringly emotionally well if you have severed “blood” relationships).

Step out of the role of being a peacekeeper (one who avoids and helps others to avoid necessary and helpful conflict) and step into the role of being a peacemaker (one who welcomes and facilitating necessary and helpful conflict).