Archive for ‘Therapeutic Process’

October 9, 2017

What did you learn from your father?

by Rod Smith

Nine things I learned from my father – and some of them not too well:

  • “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.” This he said when seeing anyone in a tight spot, self imposed or not.
  • “What if it was us, Mavis?” This was his appeal to my mother who tended to want to watch expenses more than he did.
  • Radical hospitality. Stories of our father opening our home to strangers were legendary.
  • “Make your words soft and sweet in case you have to eat them.” He used this when I was judgmental or harsh.
  • “Don’t carry your fish in a violin case.” My father despised all pretension.
  • “Build bridges; don’t burn them.” My father feared cut-offs.
  • “A man who is going the wrong way down a one-way street already knows it – he needs help turning around.” Forever benevolent, my father championed the underdog.
  • “Rather be fooled because you trusted too much than because you trusted too little.” And, sadly, he was frequently duped.
  • “If the child needs milk the child needs milk – milk is more important to that child than the money is to me.” He’d open his grocery shop at all hours of the night and give milk to the mother of a hungry baby.

What did you learn from yours. Let me know.  

 

October 5, 2017

Weekend superhero

by Rod Smith

The world is disturbed by threats of nuclear war. There have been horrific mass shootings, race riots, and re-emergences of violent extremes.

Entire regions of the world have been destroyed by hurricanes and earthquakes. Millions are homeless because of severe weather and millions more live as refugees fleeing oppressive political circumstances.

May we (you and I) deploy our most powerful individual forces. As limited as we each may be, the world needs a few superheroes and we can each in our own way be one:

  • Design and commit specific, routine acts of kindness and generosity. Make them pointed, uniquely tailored for someone in need. If possible, make your target an enemy and make your act anonymous. The “routine” will help us form healing habits. The “enemy” element will transform us into fine-tuned agents of grace

  • Extend your immediate community by embracing the stranger, the sojourner, the person on the fringe. Resist the urge to create him or her into your own image by expecting your guest to conform to your ways or to convert to your ways. Superhero hospitality accepts people exactly as they are.

  • In the spirit of St. Francis, indeed a superhero, may we seek to console and to serve rather than to be consoled and to be served. I know, I know – it wasn’t supposed to be a direct quotation.

September 24, 2017

Fine acts of parenting

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday 9/25/2017 / I have witnessed many fine acts of parenting:

  • The mother who sends her adult sons and daughters Mother’s Day cards with handwritten lists of joyous memories about what it has been like to be their mother. She has done this for so long that it was some years before the children (when they were children) even knew they were the ones who were supposed to send her cards.
  • The dad who traded in his own car and settled for a used car so he could give his son the sports car his son wanted.
  • The parents who each worked two jobs so the two sons did not have to assume significant debt to attend university.
  • The single mother who has the wherewithal to leave her daughter’s academic struggles up to her and who encourages her daughter to speak up about what she needs to her teachers.
  • The dad who packs his son’s lunch each day for school and who adds an extra pack for his son’s friend who once expressed to the boy that he wished that he too had a dad.
  • The dad who taught his son to share without ever saying it but by showing it at every turn.
  • The parents who never let drinking distort or shape the way they reared their children.
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.
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

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.

December 31, 2014

Planning 2015 / Become your own CEO

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – January 1, 2015

Ways to think about the New Year that will lead you into new dimensions of living that you design for yourself:

All behavior has meaning. Assess your behavior – your responses, your attitudes.

Try to see the behavior of others (good or bad) as none of your business.

Draw. Using stick figures of various shapes and sizes, draw your family according to the influence you perceive them to have.

Think about your patterns. Diagram your relationship traps and triangles.

Chart your position: how it’s changed over the years and how you’d like to see it modified in the future.

Use colors.

Give the colors meaning. Track the information-flow.

Until you become your own Chief Executive Officer and Human Resource representative in your own family you will not see the changes you’d prefer. While you are not in charge of you, someone else will be.

Keep your drawing private. You are looking for change, not an argument.

Everyone sees his or her family differently because we all live in different families – EVEN if we are siblings.

Allow yourself, and everyone else, the kind of grace you’d like shoveled your way. This is partly what it means to accommodate homeostasis (yesterday’s column). Allow for some degree of regression and failure on all of your parts.

December 21, 2014

Text for help from a woman who is cutting……

by Rod Smith

“There’s a young woman cutting herself outside my flat. What can I tell her?”

(Text received from South Africa)

Assess the level of urgency.

Does she need an ambulance or your presence?

If it’s the latter, your presence is more important than your words.

Be very respectful.

Be calm.

Be gentle.

Ask if she wants you to say anything at all.

If she tells you to be quiet, be quiet. Tell her you will sit with her in silence.

Allow the quietness between you to settle in, and this could take a long while, then tell her gently that you are willing to listen to her for as long as she wants to speak, and that you will not say a word while she talks or try to rearrange her thoughts or mess with her feelings.

If she tells you that you may talk, tell her very gently, after much silence, that there is help available to people who think that hurting themselves is helpful; that while her strong feelings that result in her inflicting pain upon herself may offer her a tangible outlet for her strong feelings, there are steps available toward more permanent relief from whatever she is facing.

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July 17, 2012

The joy of our humanity

by Rod Smith

Is found in our connection with others (a connection sufficiently powerful so that we are not alone) and can therefore give and receive strength to and from each other. It is yet separate enough so that we not drain each other of the adventure of being unique and distinct beings. This is one of the greatest blessings accompanying our humanity and, when it fails, it becomes the source of exceedingly powerful pain.

July 14, 2012

Indications of becoming healthier in an intimate relationship

by Rod Smith

1. You experience greater OBJECTIVITY and can “see” your most important relationships as if looking at them through someone else’s eyes.
2. Despite any pain, any trauma, any uncertainty, you can see some HUMOUR in what you are experiencing even if it is short lived.
3. You are progressively gathering a small community of friends who know everything (or almost everything) about you and their SUPPORT is becoming easier to trust.
4. You are seeing with greater and greater CLARITY what are and what are not your responsibilities within your most important relationships.
5.”No” comes easier and it is not accompanied by guilt. “Yes” is your response when you really want what you agree to. You begin to BELIEVE the words you say. Your words reflect you, your desires, and are not said from guilt or the impulse to keep the peace or make others happy.