Archive for ‘Blended families’

July 24, 2017

Respect the blood

by Rod Smith

When relating to a family – be it to one or many members of a family – ignoring or discounting blood-ties or invisible loyalties is done at peril, even if it is at the family’s invitation and if the family is experiencing considerable turmoil.

If a relationship is professional (helper, counselor, coach, teacher, head of school, pastor, or health-care worker), or if it involves befriending or dating a member of a family, blood is and almost always will be thicker that non-blood, and any insertion by an outsider into the family that violates the invisible loyalties (even when invited) will not occur without retaliation.

Ignoring, discounting, or dismissing invisible loyalties is the emotional equivalent of swinging from live power-lines.

While invisible loyalties often defy logic and can be thoroughly irrational, while they can appear to switch without notice and can be denied even while their enforcement may be glaringly obvious to an outsider, messing with blood loyalties will be rewarded in ways the intruder will regret.

The wise “outsider” – a paid professional, an educator, or a person who is invited into the family as an intimate, the wise outsider respects the blood, the pre-existing bonds, even if they appear to be unhelpful or destructive binds.

[This phenomenon is tough to identify but it explains something of how and why some people really never become “part of the family”, why step-parenting is so very difficult for many families, and why family business is so hard to do well.]

June 6, 2017

Shame is a silent, debilitating companion….

by Rod Smith

Shame has pernicious intent for our lives. It lurks; it’s imbedded in our language as in, “You should be ashamed of yourself,” says the parent or teacher, and it casts its debilitating shadow and cuffs itself to the shamed hearer.

Here are some means it uses to set up house and does its work of life-long restraining:

Abandonment: “See, if you were good enough (prettier, cleverer, slimmer, taller, shorter) he or she would have stayed. It’s your own fault you are alone.”

Trauma: “You deserved it. If you’d been more alert (agile, aware, fatter, thinner, taller, shorter) then you’d not have been selected as a victim. What happened doesn’t happen to all children or adults so it’s your fault.”

Guilt: “What you have done is not only bad you are bad for having done it or even for thinking about doing it (no matter what “it” is). You are forever defiled and you will carry this around forever. People can see it on you.”

Shame-based living is tough and wearisome.

Shame is lessened, even expelled, through the exposure that authentic vulnerability brings.

Shame drives people into further acts of shameful behaviors.

Vulnerability in a community loosens its grip and ushers in well-deserved freedom.

CONTACT ME VIA COMMENTS IF YOU DESIRE A FACE-TO-FACE CONVERSATION VIA THE INTERNET

 

April 30, 2017

Ten reasons talk therapy ought have a warning label:

by Rod Smith

The therapist may:

  • expose you to several new perspectives on your life and the experience may lead you to significant change
  • have guts enough to show you how you may be thinking and behaving like a victim and the experience may lead you to change
  • strip you of your God-talk and your handy clichés to the point where you really meet yourself and encounter the divine
  • show you how you fit into a network of family and friends and how you may be resisting your legitimate place in that network.
  • ignore your focus on your weaknesses and help you to capitalize upon your strengths
  • insist that you create new orbits no matter how entrenched you may be
  • help you get your focus off the endless task of trying to make unhappy people happy
  • stir the lion within you until you see the fruitlessness of accommodating poor treatment from anyone
  • expose you to the joy of being out of control while keeping the rules all at the same time
  • show you how your future may be brighter than your past if you embrace the courage to plan and to implement what you really want.
April 30, 2017

My sister is caught up with her son

by Rod Smith

“My sister changes plans on me all the time because of her son (4). We will make a plan to meet and then it gets cancelled because the child had a tantrum. I wouldn’t think this was an issue but it has been repeated many times. This is really testing my patience. If we do meet she brings him with her when we have lunch but we cannot talk because he takes so much of her attention. It’s so bad my boyfriend won’t come with anymore. I just want one time when we can talk like it used to be. Is this too much to ask?”

It’s not too much to ask but you may never get what you are looking for.

Your sister’s relationship with her son will probably always trump her relationship with you. She’s his mother; she’s your sister. If she really is too caught up in mothering then that is not news she will probably be open to hearing from you.

Declare your wants. Do it kindly. Do it clearly. Then, understand that your sister will place what she determines as the needs of her child above the needs of her sister.

Join her; love your nephew, rather than attempt to compete with him.

April 24, 2017

My observations of Adult Children of Alcoholics

by Rod Smith
  • They (we) tend to mistrust relationships – from casual to intimate.
  • Relationships are about winning or losing, about using or being used.
  • Mistrust trust – they (we) are suspicious of you if you trust them and suspicious of you if you don’t.
  • They (we) are experts in the “double bind” meaning that no matter which option you choose, it is the “wrong” option.
  • They (we) are constantly on duty and have little or no conception of what it means to let go, to relax, and to live with some abandon.
  • They (we) assume there’s always a hidden agenda.
  • They (we) misread authentic innocence and regard it as a cover designed to pull them in.

To succeed in a casual or intimate relationship with an adult child of an alcoholic persistence and patience are essential. They are likely to test the validity of the relationship time and time again. They are going to put roadblocks in the way and will sabotage any meaningful connection to test if it is real.

In the extreme adult children of alcoholics replicate the chaos of their childhoods in order to replicate the discomfort and the mistrust that was their normal.

Please use this column wisely – it is not intended as a means of judging or hurting anyone.

April 22, 2017

Monday meditation / Nine simple truths

by Rod Smith

Nine simple truths –

May they be your first thoughts every morning and may they infiltrate your every move and every relationship:

I am….

  • To be respected and treasured and able to respect and treasure all other people.
  • Capable of expressing my opinions and will do so with growing and greater confidence.
  • Uniquely gifted and my gifts are useful to my immediate and broader community.
  • As unique as the proverbial snowflake and yet part of the human family, tainted with its vulnerabilities, failures, and frailties.
  • Capable of forgiving the worst of offenses I have endured, and capable of seeking forgiveness for the worst offenses I have committed.
  • Able to encourage the discouraged and offer hope to the hopeless.
  • Unafraid of the talents of others and able and willing to help others find their greatness.
  • Capable of becoming the most generous person I know.
  • My own best friend so that I may be a friend to others.
April 17, 2017

No matter how highly functional or not, here are some family challenges worthy of pursuit:

by Rod Smith

Talk about what you would like to do more as a family and what would we prefer to do less as a family. The list may include monumental challenges that take years to address. The list may include things that can be changed in an instant.

Talk about what you would each like to do more, and less, as individuals in the family. As above, some may be really easy and some may take seemingly forever.

Plan something meaningful and unusual (“off the charts”) that the family agrees to work toward. This may be a trip, a building project, or entering as a family into a race.

Discuss (according to age, ability, and appropriateness) topics that are usually taboo like death, sex, finances, and family secrets. Discuss why they are taboo in the first place. When and why and how did the secret become a secret. Who decides what is and what is not a secret?

Consult a professional who is able to construct a Genogram with your family. Request that it span three generations. This will (potentially) alert family members to troublesome trends and urges that pre-exist within the family system and therefore (potentially) equip members to face them if and when they emerge again. Nothing in families is new!

April 10, 2017

The parenting challenge continues….

by Rod Smith

Finding the delicate balance between knowing, being aware, and invading or conquering.

My teenage sons deserve private lives that are quite separate from me. Yet, they need me to be knowledgeable about their difficulties, their confusions, and some of their discomforts. I’ve noticed that when I am comfortable with my own life, my relationships, with setting and achieving my goals, I am quite relaxed about theirs. When I am discontent with my own life I tend to want to meddle with, or invade, or fix their lives.

Finding the balance between serving my sons and letting them do necessary tasks without my help.

I usually do the laundry – but both boys are fully capable of doing their own. When I do it for them I am happily serving them and they are grateful and we are all happy with what is mostly an unspoken arrangement. When my sons are annoyed or picky about the way I do the laundry (and this is quite rare) then they have lost their grateful edge and have moved into entitlement and expectations. At this point my help is not very helpful.

May our struggles in our home, as different as they may be from yours, inspire and encourage you.

April 9, 2017

The company you keep…..

by Rod Smith
  • Embrace people who believe in you. Seek out the men and women who are in your unofficial support group and spend your effort in their direction. It is necessary and acceptable that you define your boundaries with men and women who pull you down and who try to minimize or ridicule your contribution to your family, your work-place, or your broader community. Be cordial, be kind, to such people but limit the power you give to people who denigrate you.
  • Embrace people who have a vision for their own lives. The more you can rub shoulders with people who are “going places” and are invested in building their futures, the greater the likelihood that you will get caught up in similar healthy habits. Drainers and downers and doubters are easy to spot but often harder to avoid. Disillusioned people love a target and are especially attracted to bringing happy and motivated people into their fold.
  • Invest or reinvest in a cause bigger and more meaningful than simply enhancing your family and yourself. There is so much need and suffering everywhere and you are fully capable of reducing some of both for people in your immediate environment.
March 29, 2017

High and low functioning

by Rod Smith
  • Lower functioning people require more and more control.
  • Higher functioning people want greater levels of freedom for all.
  • Lower functioning people place obstacles (hurdles, doubts, misgivings) in the way of those who are higher functioning often without even knowing it.
  • Higher functioning people know that self-definition and acts of strong leadership will face resistance in the form of doubts and misgivings from those who are less inclined to grow.
  • High functioning people want mercy and justice and equity for all even if it means great personal cost.
  • Lower functioning people operate out of a desire for revenge or to “teach them a lesson.”
  • High functioning people do not regard themselves as victims while lower functioning people arrange their lives and often their livelihood around victimhood.
  • The person who wants a relationship the most (any relationship) shifts the balance of power into the hands of he or she who wants it least.
  • Every time a person wants to do something great or adventurous or thrilling someone will try to put a stop to it.
  • Grace and forgiveness and generosity are among the most powerful forces of change in any family or community and the one who embraces them immediately increases his or her level of functioning.