Archive for ‘Communication’

December 13, 2017

Definition of family…..

by Rod Smith

When my first born was a few days old a woman whom I had known for a few years, and was really well-meaning, arrived at my house and suggested I give the baby to a real family.

Her understanding of the context and reason my son’s birth mother choose me to be his (solo) parent was very limited. While the immediate (minimal) shock and pain of that encounter has long worn off (and healed), the exchange – which happened to be the first of many strange or unexpected encounters – did give me what I believe to be a greater acuteness or awareness of what it is that makes a group of people family.

I’d really like to hear your views. Here are a few of mine. A family:

  • Is a place where people are most often related by marriage or blood but often they are not.
  • Is a place where people, who usually share space (but not always), are enduringly committed to each others highest good even if and when the highest good is painful and costly.
  • Is a platform where people can express their differences without being alienated or made to feel bad or wrong for expressing or embodying differences.
  • Is a place where members feel safe (mostly) and when they don’t (feel safe) they can say so and someone in the family will listen and hear and try to understand.
  • It’s a place where, if someone doesn’t feel safe and says so, the person who listens and hears will be able to help discern if feeling unsafe or unsure is appropriate. The process of growing and learning can be very unsettling and feeling unsettled can lead to increasing feelings of vulnerability.
December 6, 2017

The two E-s

by Rod Smith

Enabling is rampant in many families.

It can involve:

  • Covering for someone so outsiders do not notice or find out about his or her undesirable behavior (drinking, gambling, addictive habits).
  • Relaying lies to a workplace – calling in to say he or she is ill when he or she is unable to work because of the addiction.
  • Permitting, turning a blind-eye, cooperating, letting things go unnoticed to keep the peace or because it feel easier.

Enabling behaviors are often subtle way of disguising who it is in a family who is in need of help. The enabler often appears to be the strong or the healthy one. Control is the name of the game – and family life can feel like one.

Empowering is common in healthy families.

It can involve:

  • Getting out of each other’s way so people can learn from errors and get credit for their successes.
  • Allowing natural consequences to follow choices so people can learn just how powerful really are.
  • Trusting and believing in each other even when things do not go to plan or appear to be falling apart.

Empowered people require the company of other empowered people and all require a strong sense of self. Freedom to discover and to learn are the hallmark of the empowered.

November 30, 2017

Toward being more human

by Rod Smith

When referring to my brother’s generosity I wrote that I believe generosity is among several of the most powerful human abilities. I’ve seen it time and again do its fabulous work.

Here are more of what I believe to be innate human capacities.

Exercised, they make us “more human.” Neglected or ignored, I believe they render us rather cold, even inhuman:

  • The capacity to forgive even the most grievous offenses – yes, of course it’s hard, but NOT doing so may be even harder.
  • The capacity for empathy – to see and understand, but of course, not necessarily agree with, the perspective of another, even that of an enemy.
  • The capacity to influence for good (and, to influence for ill is bundled within the same set of human strengths). We have the power to influence – let’s hope it is used for good.
  • The capacity to learn from mistakes and errors, and to learn that it is possible to not repeat them.
  • The capacity to move up the brain and therefore allow ones self to think more objectively, engage in better long-term planning, and form the habit of responding rather than reacting.
  • The capacity to listen more than to speak. If we listen we may actually learn something – when we speak we are usually repeating what we think we already know.
  • The capacity to calm the ego rush – or the ability to see and understand that being right or recognized or winning doesn’t come close to the joy of learning to be loving.
November 21, 2017

That sane inner-voice…..

by Rod Smith

What’s your inner-voice saying about your diet, spending, gambling, or your role in your family conflicts? I bet you hear or feel the nudge of your inner-voice when you speak harshly to others or are hard or cruel. I thoroughly believe that many of our interpersonal troubles come from the unwillingness or the inability to hear or trust our inner sane voice.

There’s a sane and beautiful person living within you and he or she is trying to get through to you.

If you think things through you will agree that you know what’s good and right, and what is not. I believe we know when we are using others for our own purposes and when we sacrifice their best interests for our own.

We know what to eat and what to avoid.

I know if I am lying or twisting truth in my favor.

Even the most hardened of liars is aware of it – even if the “skill” seems “second nature.”

Of course there are men and women who do indeed have schizoid conditions and to whom this column would not apply – but the vast majority of us have a sane inner-voice that’s aching for a hearing.

Listening in, acting accordingly, would save us an awful lot of pain, trouble, and therapy.

November 16, 2017

Lessons: what is life teaching you?

by Rod Smith

What is the year teaching you? Please, reflect and let me know. Here are a few things I am learning afresh and re-learning:

  • Trust broken is hard to restore. My experience is that forgiveness can restore broken trust but the ability to trust again can take a long time to restore. This is especially so with close friendships and infidelity in marriage.
  • No one is more important than anyone else. To be intimidated by another is a waste of opportunity and energy. Yes, we all have different roles. We are afforded a variety of degrees of power and responsibility that come with our varying roles, but using that power to lord it over another is the surest indication that the power is in the wrong hands.
  • Some individuals are so significantly hurt that the real person has disappeared behind shame, regret, and pretense. The defense has become the identity. The vulnerable person inside died a very long time ago and, sadly, will probably never be known.
  • Ignored conflicts and family issues that are unaddressed will remain and usually grow. The issues may change shape, may go into hiding, may remain latent for decades – but they will surface and get necessary attention.
November 15, 2017

Be more human

by Rod Smith

Slow down. Stop. Look at the beauty around you. Take it in. Breathe deeply. Treasure the moment. This will embolden you to….

Listen to others. Make eye contact. Don’t wait to speak or one-up things someone tells you with a better or more dramatic story. The person with whom you are talking probably wants human contact and meaningful connection and validation more than he or she wants a contest or a race. Listen to what people say and to what they don’t say. The latter may be far more meaningful and significant than the former. The person with whom you have this sacred moment is probably as lonely as you are, as afraid as you are, as desperate as you are, and as desirous of significance and validation as you are. Welcome this fellow sufferer into your circle – even if it for a few brief minutes – and make it unforgettable.

If you are talking to a child do what is necessary to be eye-to-eye and unearth the patience within yourself to treasure the moment and to ask questions and to engage the child on the child’s terms.

Indifference is a killer; engagement, involvement, and interest are its antidotes.

November 8, 2017

Midweek family meal

by Rod Smith

A family of mom, dad, and three children (all the children under 8) and grandparents were eating near me in a restaurant. Dad was adding out-loud how much he owed each child as he or she ate at the rate of a dollar per mouthful. Mom was showing one child how it is possible to eat and not lose points in the game he was playing on his phone while he ate. The other two children – both younger – had apparently already mastered that skill on their devises. The grandparents looked on with that distant but mildly amused and resigned look.

I head off home and I wonder if I will write about this experience. I amused at what I have seen but also aware that whatever I write may come off as judgmental.

My house is almost dead quiet. My older boy microwaved something and taken it up to his room. I can hear he’s buried in some Netflix series. My younger son’s got a game going on in his room. The only sounds are his frustrations that some friend is not online at the moment. The state of the kitchen reveals he too has helped himself.

“Get off your high horse, Mr. Smith,” I hear yelled from somewhere deep inside my head.

November 6, 2017

(Extended) Family leadership

by Rod Smith

Every extended family (usually) has the need for a leader or leaders. He or she may vary as needs and issues change. The role may be offered through covert means – a sort of passive pressure – or readily announced and openly assumed.

That person may be required to:

  • Initiate meetings and facilitate conversations where there has been a falling out.
  • Empower family members to take a hard and loving stand against cruel or harsh treatment at the hands of another member of the family or even someone outside of it.
  • Go first – and be the first person in the family to travel or to go to university or to branch off into an area of interest or study that no one in the family has done before.
  • Go back, and visit childhood places and long-lost relatives and to hear the family stories that may have never be heard.
  • Demonstrate grace, generosity, and forgiveness in a family that may have for many years traded in selfishness, resentment, and judgment.
  • Speak well and kindly of those family members who for whatever reason have been rejected by some members of the same family and be willing to reach out to them in order to draw them back into the fold.

 

If it is you, may you have the courage and the wisdom to exercise your calling.

October 22, 2017

Monday confessions

by Rod Smith

Of course I cannot do all of the following – but reading them through each day helps set my daily trajectory, especially on a Monday. My ardent hope is that reading this list will do the same for you:

  • I will be proud of my behavior when I review it at the end of the day.
  • I will take full responsibility for my actions while anticipating that others might not do the same.
  • I will pay my way, live within my means, and seek and act on opportunities for generosity.
  • I will be kind no matter what.
  • I will seek to be as low maintenance as possible.
  • I will try to know the difference between what are my responsibilities and what are not, with the understanding that some things are everybody’s responsibility.
  • I will give others the benefit of the doubt.
  • I will allow people to escape their reputations even if their reputations are well earned.
  • I will speak up about what I want or don’t want so that others, even those very close to me, will not have to spend any energy guessing or interpreting my behavior.
  • I will remain out of control and unpredictable; I will break my own rules and habits without hurting anyone and without damaging any treasured relationship.
October 18, 2017

You day will follow your mind…..

by Rod Smith

Your day will run much like your mind runs – positively or negatively

Versions of the following have occurred this week with clients:

Jane unexpectedly sees a friend, Sally, at a distance. Sally appears to ignore Jane. Jane ruminates deeply about this.

  • Jane feels rejected and wonders for hours, or even days, what she did to offend Sally. Jane can’t let it go.
  • Jane assumes Sally simply did not see her, or, if she did, Sally was too busy to talk.

Francis hears about close friends who had lunch together without her.

  • Francis is immediately debilitated. She feels betrayed. Francis knows they were talking about her and she is sure she was the reason they met.
  • Francis tells herself her friends are as free to meet and exclude her, as they are free to meet and to include her.
  • Francis assumes her friends are planning a wonderful surprise party for her.

I’d suggest that hidden within each of us is a healthy self. It’s a self that can be pushed and pulled to run with the negative or to run with what’s healthy and positive. It’s the often-miniscule inner choices that make all the difference to the shape of your day (week, month, and year).