Archive for ‘Family Systems Theory’

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.
April 2, 2017

Celebrating Mondays

by Rod Smith

Mondays – celebrating the first workday of the week:

I love Mondays although I have not always done so. I especially enjoy the first Monday of the month.

Mondays are a reset button. They are an opportunity to set new goals and to reset goals that have lapsed. They are a new beginning, a fresh start and an internal blank slate, a new baseline. Whatever metaphor you employ, I’d suggest we reject the term “blue-Monday” from here on out and switch it for “Magnificent Monday.”

Mondays are an opportunity to love life and to love the lives of those around you and I don’t only mean family and loved ones. Mondays are an opportunity to see the miracle within all people and to affirm human resilience.

Mondays are an opportunity to affirm the spiritual nature of all things, from the most mundane, like getting up and getting ready for the commute to work to the most glorious, like the opportunity to pay debts, thank coworkers, and be part of a vibrant, even conflicted community.

Mondays are a wonderful opportunity to be generous, to be forgiving, and to encourage. They are an opportunity to set the stage for the change you’d like to see in your own life and to measure and assess progress 50-plus times a year.

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.
March 14, 2017

I ask a woman….

by Rod Smith

I ask a woman how her life is going and she tells me about her children. She’s very forthcoming. I hear about their failures and successes and their disappointments and their accomplishments in sports.

So I ask again how she is enjoying her life and she tells me about her children’s teachers and how dedicated they are and how they go the extra mile for her sons and how much she appreciates it and how happy her sons are at school.

I persist and ask her if she has any close friends and how much time she spends with her peers and she tells me how her sons’ friendships are a little disappointing to her and that sometimes they get left off birthday party lists and how much it hurts her when that happens and how she wishes adults were more sensitive to her children.

I ask the same woman who happens to also be a wife how she is enjoying her husband and she tells me they “work together” as parents and they are almost always on the “same page.”

I press in and ask the woman if she has a life outside of being a mom and she gives me that blank look as if I have no idea what I am talking about.

March 12, 2017

I remind myself of these things….

by Rod Smith

When it comes to my sons, I remind myself of these things:

  • Their lives are larger at their ages than mine was at their ages. Of course, they’re starting late and the world is a very different place. Their platforms are more complex, and more dynamic than mine was and, I admit, I am somewhat limited in my ability to identify with it. This means I should not be taken aback when I am blinded to possibilities and experiences they see and want to embrace. Rejecting an idea or a possibility simply because I couldn’t envision it is a good way to widen a gap than is mine, and not theirs, to bridge.
  • While the world is a very different place than it was in my formative years, some things remain unchanged. Good manners, using please and thank you, looking people in the eye, standing up for adults, dealing honestly with money and time, working hard, and displaying empathy in the face of those who are suffering – are values that cannot be discarded just because the world is faster paced than it once was. One of my jobs as a parent is to encourage, even enforce some of these things if necessary.
  • I am enough for my sons and the only dad they will ever need.
March 4, 2017

Do you love your life?

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday (3-6-2017)

Do you love your life – or at least most of it?

I hope so. It must be terrible to wake up every day having to face a job you resist in order to provide for people who find you difficult and in whom you may find repeated displeasure. I feel ill thinking of it. It gives me a heavy feeling that I would hate to have to haul around all and every day.

Perhaps you have no job and that may be the source of at least some of your displeasure.

Perhaps you have no family or zero support from family you do have.

I am very aware of how much family and friends form the scaffolding of my life, making so much difference to me when things are tough.

No matter what your circumstance – and I declare this as loudly and forcefully to myself as I do to you: you are what you’ve got. You are your most powerful asset, and, you’d better make the most of it.

Someone wiser than I – and I’d give full credit if I knew the source – said, “we see the world, not as it is, but as we are.”

I’d suggest we also love others, not as they are, but as we are.

Peace. Have a fabulous, loving, and aware week.

February 27, 2017

Spirituality and spiritual abuse…..

by Rod Smith

Ten signs of the presence of spiritual abuse, manipulation, domination, or intimidation.

Spiritual Abuse (always on a continuum) is occurring when a pastor, leader, or even a friend:

  • “Hears” God for you. God apparently “goes through” him/her to speak to you. This requires a sense of superiority – from him or her and is often framed as being “more mature,” and a sense of being “less” from you.
  • Alienates (shuns, ignores) you if you do not adhere to his/her guidance, leadership, or authority. This is usually VERY subtle – so it is easy to deny.
  • Suggests that rejection of his/her “higher understanding” is done so at your spiritual or even physical peril. You will hear things like, “Be careful. You will move yourself from the covering and protection of God if you don’t listen to me.”
  • Rewards your obedience with inclusion, and punishes your questioning or resistance with withdrawal. Compliance gets stroked; resistance gets struck.
  • Demands “cathartic” honesty. Unless you spew out every detail of your life you must be hiding or withholding something and that “something” will, of course, impede your spiritual development.
  • Lavishes you with praise, acceptance, and understanding when you are “good” and “pushes” you away when you are “bad.”
  • Is apparently fixated on the use of titles like reverend, pastor, elder and cannot appear to relax in the company of “ordinary” mortals. The issue is not in the use of legitimate titles (or robes or religious garb) – it is that identity seems impossible without the titles or the trappings.
  • Leaves a trail of cut-off relationships. Usually in the trail are those who refuse to bow, to submit, to stand in awe of, to be thoroughly entranced by, the will of the pastor, the leader or the friend. Always regard with suspicion or caution leaders who are cut off or alienated from members of their family, especially their parents.
  • Lives from a “for me/or against me,” “black/white,” “all/or nothing” platform of “relationships.”
  • Genuinely sees God’s Call so zealously, so fervently that any signs of resistance are seen as the expressions of The Enemy or an enemy – thus, relationships are expedient (disposable) in the light of getting on with God’s work.

The perpetrators of abuse apparently fail to see that reconciliation, and forgiveness, “space,” and room to move, and room to respectfully disagree (boundaries, morality) are all part of the glorious work of the Gospel.

Freedom begins with recognition. Recognition must result in action.

Stand up to those who misuse their positions of leadership. Spiritual abuse serves the welfare or neither the perpetrator nor the victim – quite apart from the disservice it does to the church.

All authentic holiness, spirituality, Godliness, is LOCAL. If it’s not present and respectful in the most immediate one-to-one relationships (spouse, child, secretary, mail-carrier, in the traffic, at the airline check-in, with the dog) it will not be authentic in the one-to-many relationships, no matter how many thousands or tens of thousands make up the many.