Archive for August, 2022

August 29, 2022

The most important post you will ever read if you want emotional and family health

by Rod Smith

Differentiation of Self – I will come to your group, church, organization to Listen and Hear and Teach — contact me if you think I may be of some help to you in your journey or crises.

Differentiation of Self — a term coined by family therapy pioneer, Murray Bowen — 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.

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 your self AND everyone in your circle of influence.

Differentiation of Self 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 whom 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 (co-workers, family members, neighbors) while, and even though, there is tension and disagreement. This does not necessarily include a former spouse or former in-laws or any situation regarding a romance gone sour — although it might.

6. Being able to declare clearly what I need and requesting help from others without overly 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. It’s understanding that some needs may not ever be met in the manner we may prefer or choose, or at all.

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 other people (or myself) 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.

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 within community. I am not suggesting some form of communal or shared living. I am suggesting the differentiated person finds a place with others while also being separate from others.

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).

(Please PRINT this page and STUDY it. Spread it around your office and among your friends. Read more writers about this concept. The ONLY thing I ask in return is that you let me know you printed it – by leaving a comment – and you SPREAD the word to others.)

August 28, 2022

Research your family

by Rod Smith

There are a number of ways to improve your family relationships. But, before you know what needs improving I’d suggest you do your research. 

At least for a few weeks watch for family patterns. You may think you know all about all the patterns but I would suggest you probably do not. Watch who is lazy (under-performs, is apparently helpless) when it comes to relationships and who works too hard (over-performs). You may also notice that such people tend to find each other and can dance this way for years. Notice where and how you over and under-perform. There is no need to comment. Watch, learn, and think.

Assess how you can more pointedly show up for yourself, self advocate, shape your own behavior within all your many contexts (home, work, social settings). I am not promoting selfishness but self-awareness. So, watch yourself. Become an expert in your behavior. Abdicate the role of being the expert in the behavior of all other family members and friends. Don’t do this dangerous work for them.

While researching, think about how you will know if things are improving so you will be able to identify successes. Focus on your thinking rather than feelings. You will think and behave yourself into new ways of feeling, not the reverse.

August 28, 2022

How you respond!

by Rod Smith

“It’s not what happens to you but how you respond to what happens to you that really makes the difference,” has become somewhat of a cliche.  

The axiom holds some truth. 

Like all bumper stickers and one-liners it doesn’t quite capture the whole truth or the complexity of the human experience. 

To the suffering it can be heard as judgment, as condemnation.

Some things that happen to people are so devastating, so vile, so out of left field, so horrible and unpredictable, that they need considerable space to grieve, to reorient themselves, to find their feet, let alone get back on their feet. 

People hit with heartbreak or significant loss or an act of violence need time, lots of it, to figure out who they are in their new reality and they may indeed not have the energy or the strength to know how to respond to what has happened to them. 

In the wake of devastating events people yearn for shoulders to cry on, arms to hug them, ears to hear them for as long as they deem necessary. How we respond to what happens to us may make all the difference in the world but the response itself may take years.

August 25, 2022


by Rod Smith

Love always looks like love. It doesn’t dress in other fancy clothes or pretends it is something else. It always leads to light, ultimately to fewer complications, to greater expressions of art and goodwill and freedom and beautiful humor. It doesn’t manipulate or dominate or intimidate. It doesn’t have to. Love is open with its goals and agendas and dreams and visions. 

Love trusts. Love lets you in, doesn’t shut you out. Love speaks its mind but does so with care and kindness, even if the truth is tough to express. Love learns. Love does all it can to not repeat mistakes and repeat hurtful behaviors. 

Love shares. Love includes. Love reaches out. Love listens and responds. Love offers room for others to think and to feel. Love gives room for others to be free and to make mistakes. Love covers, love welcomes.

Love accepts others and forgives others but it also self-protects. Love is not afraid to say no. Love doesn’t go along with everything. Love is unafraid of declaring strong and healthy boundaries. Love has no elements of jealousy or possessiveness or a desire to seclude you from the others whom you love. Love always makes you free, free to explore, free to enjoy others especially within the confines and commitments of integrity and family.

August 24, 2022

How to ensure you have a great day….

by Rod Smith

Please, do not underestimate your power to spread goodwill and ensure for yourself, at least, a really good day. There are people who are committed to having a bad day no matter what so leave them to it. Get out of their way. Allow them all the room in the world for their negativity, but, for you, a good day is really possible.

Decide to serve others. Look for ways to ease the load others must carry and you will find yourself feeling remarkably free. 

Seek “downward mobility” and do the things you’ve somehow thought below your status, no matter how important you may think you are or have led others to believe how important you are. Your self-importance is an illusion. Get used to it.

Seek to listen to others and to hear others. I am sure you are aware that everyone is a walking and talking miracle no matter how much they may try to hide or deny it. Enter their miracle and you will be thrilled as will they.

Seek to learn from others and you will discover wisdom and humor and insight for your daily living in the most unusual and unexpected places.

Seek to be a source of mercy and in so doing you will become a person offering safety and healing.

August 23, 2022

A reader writes……

by Rod Smith

Dear Rod,

Between a picture of a magnificent tiger & your column on Love in The Mercury this morning, I found myself weeping, as so much of what you said brought back memories of my beloved husband, who passed away 18 years ago.

He wrote me a letter a year before he died & I would like to share some of the things he said:

‘When I met you, I had no idea that any woman could have the capacity for love & loyalty that you have given me & I need you to know that I am so very grateful for the friendship, togetherness & happiness that I have shared with you through our marriage.’

‘Your capacity for calming me & comforting me during those times when I’ve been so scared of what has happened to me – heart attack – heart surgery & the cancer thing, especially when I know that you were probably more scared than I was, is nothing short of incredible. With a huge amount of love & loyalty & understanding and an ability to sort things out when I’ve messed them up, you have guided me through the last 24 years & made my life an absolute pleasure.’

‘We have also always been able to communicate any time, under any circumstances & on any subject & this has made such a great impression on me.’

‘I can only hope that the love I have given you is of comfort to you, God knows, I have given you very little else.’


If you wish to publish any of the above, please do so.


August 18, 2022

Affirmations from my own son!

by Rod Smith

“Dad, was I that small when I was a baby?” said Thulani gesturing toward a woman carrying a new-born baby. 

“Probably, maybe smaller.” 

“You were really brave, Dad.”

You were really brave, dad from my teenage son hit me hard, hit me beautifully over my heart and they remain among the most fabulous five words ever strung together and volleyed in my direction. You were really brave, dad from my son was jet-fuel, vitamins, caffeine, and glory, all entering my being, the moment the thought took to leave his beautiful brain and enter mine.

He saw it. He got it. He understood.

In that moment the boy became a man. Five words directed at me and I knew the boy had become a man. Here he was demonstrating the capacity to reflect upon his own life and measure something of its impact on those around him and affirm something he saw in me that was and is intricately connected to his well-being and to his life. Here he was at 14 or 15 expressing insights some are never afforded, an appreciation of the impact their lives have on others.

And I floated for a few days and felt seen and thanked and acknowledged and complete and I access the memory when I need a little encouragement.

Others have called me brave and complimented me on our family’s journey, but this was not the observation of a friend or a stranger. 

This was my son. He was seeing something about himself. He saw something about me. He saw something about family and courage and togetherness all in that moment a woman walked by carrying a new-born baby.

August 16, 2022

You have more power than you probably realize….

by Rod Smith

…….. and it all begins in your thinking and in telling yourself the truth about who you are:

You have the power

  • To plan your own behavior in response to all that comes your way.
  • To say “no” to requests and expectations that are uncomfortable for you.
  • To say “yes” to opportunities and possibilities that broaden your horizons.
  • To say give me some time to think this through whatever it is that needs more time and thought.
  • To say “I have had enough” when you feel you are being tested or tried unnecessarily.
  • To decide “I want a change” when you are exhausted and need time for rest.
  • To decide, “I will be kind, I will learn from this, whatever it may be.”
  • To choose to be someone who learns from all people and all experiences.
  • To choose humility and mercy as your part of your gift to a hurting world.
  • To choose to serve rather than to be served and will therefore never be short of work or opportunity.
  • To bring light to others and to lighten the burdens of others as far as you are able.
  • To do no harm to others and avoid errors of the past.
August 14, 2022

The big fears: abandonment, rejection, and indifference

by Rod Smith

Fear of abandonment, rejection, and indifference strike something primal in the healthiest of men and women especially if they (abandonment, rejection, indifference) travel together and act as a destructive gang of sorts. 

“She closed the door on me after loving me,” and he talks incessantly about it happening without explanation. 

“One day we were really close, and the next day, nothing. It doesn’t seem to mean anything to her.”

“Different choices,” was all she said, in a text.

I sit with a man unaccustomed to sharing his heart. 

I know when I am hearing a broken one. 

He’s finding it very hard to understand how this woman can so easily be willing to be out of touch when they’d invested so much time and energy being in touch. It’s the small details of life together, life shared, that were so important to them both and are still important to him that she seems to have forgotten they ever enjoyed. 

He is mystified she can operate her life as if he no longer matters, no longer exists.

He’s feeling the loneliness he feared, beginning to accept he cannot sway, persuade or urge her to return to what once was.

“I’ve moved on,” she said to a friend.

He will emerge from this. 

A little kindness would make it all so much easier.

August 4, 2022


by Rod Smith

Listening to each other takes discipline, patience, focus and self-restraint.

It is an act of love and commitment and respect which requires deep awareness of nuance, tone and body language. It takes commitment to maintain eye contact, reflect on what is being said so neither person gets lost in the words or distracted by surroundings or seduced by “hijack thoughts” where totally unrelated matters capture one person’s imagination and they’re gone, even if they appear to be listening. 

Listening is a way of honoring and validating and an indication that the person talking and the person listening is thoroughly human and worthy of time and investment in every respect. To listen to each other’s is to hear the words and then to try to hear what is behind the words and what is inside the way the sentences are planned and packed and punctuated.

It is to enter into the world of another and get closer to his or her heart and nearer to the place we may all be truly seen, validated, and almost totally understood.

If we want to be good listeners it takes at least as much practice and anything else you may want to be good at like golf or the piano or tennis, writing, or art.