Archive for August, 2017

August 29, 2017

Recurring themes in therapy……

by Rod Smith

• Grandparents who are excluded from their grandchildren’s lives and the severe pain this involves for the grandparents. This can be the result of vast distances but it is usually not. It’s often an expression of unresolved family issues that don’t even involve the particular set of grandparents. It’s the son-in-law who won’t resolve issue with his own parents so he restricts his children from access to his wife’s parent. Grandparents can be easy and convenient targets for unresolved issues.

• Women (yes, it’s usually women) who give too much too soon to men who for whatever reason refuse to grow up and take responsibility for themselves. While their hope and resilience of such women is to be admired, sometimes hoping a woman will see that loving herself first will save her a lot of heartache seems lost. Like any addict they have to reach rock bottom before change can come and growth may occur.

• Parents who have lost each other as partners and lost themselves as individuals to their over-dedication to parenting.

• Young adults who have been so over-parented and so over-protected that they cannot believe how harsh the world outside their home really is and how much it really seems to insist that they have to grow up.   

August 28, 2017

Beyond resentment……

by Rod Smith

Were you over-looked for a promotion, jilted by a spouse, tricked out of a fortune, or betrayed by a friend?

I am sorry. I really am. Human indifference and cruelty impacts us all.

Like you, I have heard many tales of the horrible things people can do to each other.  I’ve done some rather destructive things myself.

This I do know: Harboring resentments, gathering injustices, collecting, and tabulating wounds and inflictions, while they may be human proclivities in response to injustice, are behaviors that are not usually very helpful. Not only does un-forgiveness make for a heavy heart, it distorts whatever thinking may be possible.

Resentment twists everything. It makes you an uncomfortable person to be around. It ruins your experience of life, no matter what initiated the resentment.

Do whatever you can to cleanse your heart of bitterness.

Take the first step and the steps that follow will probably come a lot easier. What I am suggesting is not easy. I understand.

After a lifetime of offering incredible hospitality to family and strangers alike, I watched my own father endure painful rejection from extended family who’d had no problem enjoying his hospitality for years.

And, he never let it get to him – he rose above it and lived with dignity and grace.

I know it’s possible.  

August 27, 2017

Soccer hero…..

by Rod Smith

Two days ago I was talking to my sister who lives in Durban and she causally mentioned that Bobby Chalmers had just arrived for a cup of tea.

I really don’t like the casual ways she throws around the name of my childhood hero.

She says “Bobby Chalmers is at the door” and my knees weaken and I hear stadiums of adoring fans applauding his winning goal against Durban United or Highlands Park.

At 62 I am still stuck by the power that South African soccer had over me as a boy.

Certain men lived in my inner-hall of fame: Bobby, Alan Varner, and George Wooten were tops. Henry Hauser, Les Salton, Vernon Wentzel and Trevor Gething would certainly have occupied similar status except that they played for Addington and Durban United and other lesser teams.

My developing brain could not adore players who wore anything but the blue and white jerseys with the red trimmed sleeves.

So, Bobby came on the phone and I asked about his finest moment in soccer.

With characteristic humility he said it was simply playing the game. I pushed him. He said it was in 1964 when Les Salton set him up to score two goals against Real Madrid while playing for “South African 11” securing a loss of 5-2.   

Now I can casually say things like…..”When Bobby Chalmers and I were chatting on the phone the other day…….”

August 23, 2017

The Felt twins…..

by Rod Smith

Les and Colin Felt were my friends.

Knowing them made me what is now termed “cool” which was something I was not.

When their mother pulled up at my dad’s tearoom at the top of Blackburn Road for bread sometimes Les and Colin would run out the shop and up our driveway and dive into our pool.

This always thrilled me.

Despite their mother’s pleas it would turn into an hour of spontaneous and often very rough fun.

The Felt twins and I met at Northlands Boys High School. I admired their courage, their sharp humor when they whispered about teachers. I vividly recall them switching names and places with each other in Mr. Hockey’s geography room. When they’d have conflict with each other it was best to stay out of the way. But, their real fierceness was evident if ever one was threatened. The Felt twins were tight!

Les let me know Colin had died several years ago – and his lingering pain was evident.

Les died last week.

I wish I were there to speak at his memorial. His last message to me via Facebook was a thank you for the sandwiches we shared as boys at school.

If I were there I’d say thanks for making me cool.

August 20, 2017

Open, closed families

by Rod Smith

Open families

·      Expect, allow, and encourage differences among people.

·      Expect, allow, and encourage necessary space and separation between and among people.

·      Welcome and embrace “outsiders” and place a high value on hospitality.

·      Encourage dialogue and conversations about difficult or taboo topics.

·      Trust, and continue to trust, even though letdowns will be inevitable.

·      Affirm each other without an attached agenda.

·      Anticipate spontaneity and unpredictability.     


Closed families

·      Value uniformity.

·      Emphasize togetherness.

·      Breed suspicion.

·      Control content of conversations with silencing nods and slicing looks.

·      Punish breaches of word or trust and remind others of their former failures.

·      Affirm to teach or to control.

• Plan the fun and the unexpected out of everything. 

August 19, 2017

Sister power

by Rod Smith

Having my Durbanite sister in my home in the USA for the past three months has been an indescribable joy. Jennifer is so at home among us that you’d think she’d done a lot more in our home and in this city than a visit for a few months every few years.

She knows and is known by more people than some who have lived here their whole lives.

There’s something more powerful about an adult sibling’s extended visit than the joys and the stories shared over meals, than making each other coffee or tea in the mornings, or exploring the shopping areas or visiting a series of favorite restaurants.

My sister (and a brother, for both have visited me for an extended time recently) knows me. Her knowledge goes deeper than the knowledge possessed by any other people in my cadre of relationships.

She sees beyond any attempts at pretense and calls them for what they are in the nicest and kindness of ways. My sister really knows my children and she knows how to love them. The added bonus is that when she is with us they see me, their single parent, engaged in a mutual and respectful adult-to-adult relationship right within the walls of their own house.

August 15, 2017

Are you a candidate for some good family systems reading?

by Rod Smith

“I have read your work for a long time and even find myself thinking with some of your terminology. I am ‘trapped’ or ‘triangle-d’ with my adult son and two daughters. Serving one means alienating the others. I have to watch my every step and filter every word. It’s like they are constantly trying to prove that I am more involved with one than the other – but they have very different life circumstances. Please help.”

It sounds like your adult sons and daughters are waiting to hear a strong word from you about who owns your time and your efforts. I’d suggest you take back your power and hold onto your own power rather than place it in their hands.

Thanks for the compliment inherent in the fact that you have read my work for a long time. The terminology to which you refer is not originally mine. I detect that you and many readers are great candidates for several books on Family Systems Theory. This is where my own training lies.

Immerse yourself in “Extraordinary Relationships,” “Extraordinary Leadership,” “The Cornerstone Principle” and “The Eight Core Concepts of Bowen Theory.” All of these titles are by Roberta Gilbert and all are worthy of study.

August 13, 2017

Mind your own business

by Rod Smith

Telling someone to “mind your own business” may come off as rude or uncaring. Neither is my intention. As always, whatever I write I know doubly applies to me.

Getting immersed in other people’s business, while it may offer feelings of comfort and provide and sense of importance, it is a fail-proof track to burnout.

It’s a seemingly acceptably way, as it can appear caring, to avoid your own business. Minding the business of others can offer protection from facing your own responsibilities.

So what is your (my) business (the listed order here is unimportant)?

  • The state of your immediate relationships
  • The condition of faith and your place in a community or faith
  • Your finances, your daily work, everything pertaining to house and home
  • Your children’s welfare, safety, and education while they are children
  • Your health, physical, emotional, and psychological – with the understanding that they are all inextricably connected
  • The greater good of your immediate and broad community.

So what is none of our (my) business?

  • Adult relationships where you are not one of the parties
  • The manner in which other families parent – until there is neglect or laws are broken
  • Organizational complexities (schools, churches, businesses) where you do not hold an official role or responsibility.



August 9, 2017

Co-parenting is not for the immature

by Rod Smith

I consider these are reasonable guidelines for children whose parents are divorced. You, of course, may think differently. These principles will assume the parents (all of them – step, cohabitants, exes) are mature and have the highest interest for the whole family and then for each child:

  • All the adults who parent the children meet regularly to discuss important matters pertaining to the children: education, schedules, holidays, gifts, discipline, values, and up and coming celebrations.
  • Court orders form the basis of procedures and decisions. Meetings may occur monthly or quarterly. Responsibility for scheduling the meetings shifts between mother and father. Volatile families may find meeting in a public place helpful.
  • All the adults trust all the adults to seek the highest interests of the children. All the adults respect the time and sanctity of the relationship the children have with the “other” family – and leave them alone during that time.
  • Parents attend as many school events and school and club sports events and practices as possible – no matter whose week or weekend it is. Absences are not interpreted as a lack of interest or lack of love but rather as a function or filtered hierarchy or priorities. Some things are more important than cricket practice.

I am fully aware of the enormity of this challenge. Parenting was never for the immature anyway.

August 5, 2017

It’s about who you spend time with…..

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Wednesday / High-functioning people….

Regular relating to high-functioning people (intimate of casual):

Will give you the lasting impression that life is an exciting adventure, filled with wonderful, endless possibilities

Will give you the impression that questions are more important than answers and that ambiguity is an ally and not a foe

Will leave you feeling empowered and encouraged and that if you apply yourself you can do about anything you can dream of doing and go anywhere on the planet that you’d like

Will leave you with the desire to read and discover more about areas of interest you did not even perhaps know you have

Will inspire you to become engaged in your own life at least as deeply as they are engaged in theirs

Will engage you in skillful humor that has no victims.