Archive for ‘Blended families’

September 9, 2017

Counterintuitive “realities”

by Rod Smith

People who are more defined, more separate, and who can live without each other are more likely to stay together in a long-lasting committed relationship than those who are very close and can’t live without each other. Even trees need space. So do people.

When a relationship is faltering people want to analyze it, work on it, talk about it and fix it; when relief and healing my indeed come from benignly ignoring the relationship as each participant commits to working on him or herself. Declaring personal goals and dreams that may have zero to do with the faltering relationship can go a long way toward its healing.

Childhoods are important (of course) and a happy one is what any reasonable parent strives to give a child, but, not every relationship malady or personal failing can be placed at the foot of flawed parenting or childhood trauma.

Understanding and talking about matters is not always helpful and is not always the golden key to possible solutions. Sometimes people have to simply change unhelpful habits, get off the couch and work harder and stop rehashing excuses for their behavior or searching for its source in a troubled childhood.

September 5, 2017

When therapy works, and when it usually doesn’t

by Rod Smith

Therapy works:

  • When clients are highly motivated to grow
  • When clients are willing to take risks and do new things
  • When clients are willing to be vulnerable with the people with whom they share life
  • When clients are willing to face, rather than deny, necessary and inevitable loss
  • When clients establish a realistic view of what therapy can and cannot achieve and have realistic expectations of the therapist and the process.

Therapy will be an exercise in treading water and wasted expense:

  • When clients go through the motions of getting help without wanting either growth or change
  • When clients attempt to outsmart the therapist and therefore treat the process as a game
  • When clients have a distorted view of the power therapist have and an unrealistic view of what the process may deliver
  • When clients withhold pertinent information
  • When the therapist “pushes” or “pulls” clients against their will and in conflict with their abiding loyalties.
September 3, 2017

Humour

by Rod Smith

I am learning from my boys and other sources that I am not as funny as I think I am. I recall the day when a woman looked at me right in the eyes and said Rod Smith you are not funny.

Humor in print (and all other kinds for that matter) is not easy. I might think something is very funny but unless readers think it is funny it is a waste of words, if being funny is my goal. A well-seasoned columnist once told me, after one of my funniest columns about the Queen of England got me a lot of hate mail, that we are often funny but some readers are deadly serious.

I’ve learned:

  • Good humor has no victims.
  • Good humor can endear an audience to a speaker or a writer; tasteless humor can send an audience in the opposite direction.
  • What is funny shifts and changes a lot with geography.
  • Some things are never funny (promoting cruel stereotypes).
  • The ability to really laugh and to really laugh at one’s own foibles is an indication of emotional and psychological health.
  • Persistently putting yourself down, selling yourself short, using yourself as the butt of your own jokes is not only tiresome, it’s probably a suggestion that all is not well within.
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.

 

 

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.