Archive for ‘Boundaries’

September 20, 2017

Teachers

by Rod Smith

My teachers have never left me. They hover in my awareness and continue their work despite the decades that separate me from their classrooms, lecture theaters, labs, fields, gyms, and studies. Almost all were highly motivated and loved their jobs and regarded it as a calling and I can still hear them calling me to adopt high standards for others and for myself.

The few who didn’t love their jobs, those who landed in the classroom somehow against their will or to test the waters of education, also hover. Their obvious boredom, anger, or their cynicism, were in themselves powerful lessons.

I find it incredible that the teacher with the parrot (Mrs. Bradman) who dogged my third or fourth year of school and the psychology professor who was so self-absorbed more than a decade later and my family therapy professors a lifetime later and nations apart and Mr. Morey, Mr. Graham, Mrs. Hornsby, and Miss Chadwick (I could go on) do the cancan in my frontal lobe at the oddest moments.

I know, I know, someone is going to write and tell me there is medication for my condition – but I think not.

I think it’s a testimony to the power afforded men and women who are teachers.

September 17, 2017

It’s not where……

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday

Thank you for reading my work. Really. I appreciate it.

Allow me to let you in a little.

I live in the USA, in Indianapolis, Indiana, to be precise. If you are reading this in a real newspaper you are probably somewhere in KwaZulu-Natal. I was born and reared in Red Hill, Durban.

If you are reading online you could be in any one of the 180-plus nations where people read this column.

Before you are overly impressed, in several of the 180-plus nations my readership totals 2 or 5 or even 8 people.

I am writing this particular column on the Saturday before you will read it on Monday. I am in a busy coffee shop on the very affluent side of our city. I drive here. We don’t live in this neighborhood. But, where we live is hardly poor. By American standards my sons and I are well off.

There are many days I want to be where you are. I miss the beaches, the weather, your naturally hospitable ways. I miss extended family.

I am sure there are times you’d like to be in the USA.

I’ve had this consistent thought since moving to the USA: It’s not where, but how you live that makes the difference.

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 30, 2017

This week at Chatel…..

by Rod Smith

cropped-e-is-for-enmeshment1Five (very lofty) goals for the week

Teach, facilitate group so students and staff are empowered to find, enjoy, and use their backbones, most creative brains, and voices, each to maximum of his or her current level of helpful, “growthful” discomfort. (Yes, I occasionally make up my own words).

Facilitate each student’s possibility for growth (to get bigger or smaller) into his or her appropriate size (a) as a distinct individual, (b) as a distinct individual in within a variety of contexts (like current or immediate family, family of origin, a class of students, a sub-culture and a broad culture of national heritage), and (c) finally, as a member of the Church, immediate and universal. This means examining contexts, roles, boundaries, skills, talents, gifts, and resources.

https://kona.wordpress.com/2006/04/05/jesus-herds-traingles-and-a-woman/

Teach, model (if it possible) Differentiation of Self by “watching” it in Scripture. We will use three Gospel encounters to illustrate this delicious way of life.

cropped-ladderjpg.jpgGive practical insights into healthy or unhealthy TRIANGLES, GENERATIONAL TRANSMISSION, HERDING, and other usually INVISIBLE pressures that can undermine or sabotage healthy individual, family, and organizational functioning. We will use two, perhaps three, Gospel encounters in order to illustrate.

Give practical tools to minimize individual and group anxiety, to grow and support healthy invisible individual and group loyalties, and to develop the awareness of necessary sifts from REACTIVITY to RESPONSIVENESS, from STEMMING and EMOTING to THINKING, and from AMPLIFYING or IGNORING to EMBRACING and EMPOWERING.

Further reading: Bowen, Murray; Friedman, Edwin; Schnarch, David; Gilbert, Roberta; Satir, Virginia; Framo, James; Minuchen, Salvador

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.]

July 1, 2017

A few words about attraction

by Rod Smith
  • Attraction is only possible between people who are functioning at the same level or emotional health (or the lack of it). If you think you are way ahead of him in any manner and are helping him along, and yet you are attracted to him, you are in strong denial.
  • Attraction is far more complex than being simply about looks or dress or a pleasant and attractive demeanor. There are multitudes of people who dress well and who are very good-looking and very pleasant whom you will hardly notice. Deep calls to deep, needs call out to needs, and (un)health attracts (un)health.
  • When attraction occurs between highly functional individuals the development of a meaningful relationship may seem to elude them both for a while – simply because healthy people are not driven to find a relationship. People on the other end of the continuum will seem to fall in love in an instant with about anyone who reaches out and the new couple will feel as if they’ve known each other for years even after they have just met.
  • Healthy attractions allow for the new couple to include others; unhealthy attractions lead the new couple into isolation.