Archive for ‘Therapeutic Process’

March 28, 2018

I have perfect nails, now

by Rod Smith

When I was a child there were days when every finger on both my hands would bleed from my biting and ripping my nails. I’d bite and rip until shiny puddles of blood and spit would pool in what was left of my fingertips. I’d make fists to hide the damage or tuck the wounded digits into my school pants pockets where the blood and spit would stain the pockets. If I pulled the pockets from the trousers they’d be a dull red or a darkened brown on the white cloth depending on the stain’s age. They’d look like a handkerchief applied to a bleeding nose. It was a painful habit and I was ashamed of my fingers and I hid my hands. The shame and pain did not stop this incessant indulgence which persisted well into my adulthood. My dad”s only and repeated remedy, which was never acted upon, was the threat to apply some bitter substance he’d known as a child. Mother never referred to my nail-biting but to sometimes say, “Don’t bite your nails,” and, “If you swallow a nail you’ll puncture your lungs.” Despite the graphic image of me exploding like a punctured balloon her exhortations were unsuccessful.

February 21, 2018

Helicopter parents

by Rod Smith

It’s easy to knock so-called helicopter parents – the ever-present, ever-serving, ever advocating parents who are perpetually running interference with schools and coaches, often in ways that can be stifling, even damaging the very children around whom they hover.

All behavior has meaning. Parents “helicopter” their children (I’m amused that I used “helicopter” as a verb) for deep, powerful and hidden reasons, reasons often vastly beyond simple formulae or fixes.

What I do know is that it has nothing to do with the child. I’d motivate for understanding, empathy, awareness, and acceptance for the helicopter parent. Perhaps it is fear driven. Perhaps there’s a lack of trust with that lack originating long before the child was born. Perhaps the child is regarded as a lifeline to something saner, something more tolerable than the parent has ever known. Perhaps the parent has been used and discarded in the past and is dead set on safeguarding the child so history will not be repeated. Perhaps the marriage is perched precariously on hopes of the child’s success.

There are reasons to fear, lack trust, to want a life more powerful and meaningful than the parent may have known.

Empathy, awareness, acceptance, and understanding may go a long way to secure the helicopter’s safe landing rather than the humor or rejection used to shoot it down.

February 15, 2018

Tribal code

by Rod Smith

Each of us brings to every relationships a backdrop of how we view the world, understand commitment, view, and value people, join groups, terminate friendships, love, and leave home, nurture babies, pack the dishwasher, engage in or avoid conflict, and many things too numerous to mention.

Everything about our relationships is influenced by who, where, and how we were reared – among countless other variables, including natural endowment, and deeply held dreams and desires.

From these countless sources, experiences, and codes, both known and unknown, each of us was handed a Tribal Code or our truth about how life ought to work. How life was done, how relationships were conducted, talked or not talked about, became the folklore, the “correct” or the “right” way to live.

Your formative years did what they were supposed to do: they formed (and informed) you.

They taught you what, and how, to see, think and feel. They showed you what “normal” is to your family, and your experience became your measure of how life is supposed to work.

Then, when entering relationships, be it in marriage or if you are talking with your child’s teacher – the person opposite you has his/her own, and different, tribal code. He/she has his/her own lenses through which to see the world.

No wonder we can have a tough time getting along!

January 27, 2018

Lies to girls

by Rod Smith

Lies girls are fed and often appear to believe:

  • Your body is more important than your brain therefore focus on your body, not your brain. Your body will get you further than your brain. Your body is bait. Use it well for a fine catch (riches, status – things you can’t get alone). Other people are more important than you. You are on Earth to serve, particularly all males.
  • Once a husband finds you, your greatest calling is to be a mother. If you have other ambitions you will compromise your mothering. Your only worthwhile ideas pertain to cooking, cleaning, and childcare; leave thinking about sciences, technology, and mathematics to males.
  • Once you are in love you will give up yourself for your husband and your children. This is what love is. You are a half. When you meet a man and marry you will become whole. If you suffer in silence and allow others to use you God will reward you.

Having addressed female audiences in the USA, Southern Africa, and in three Asian countries, I perceive these covert and overt messages to girls remain consistent. Perhaps saddest is that when girls find faith, they often expect God to be the ultimate male, issuing similar messages, demands, and expectations.

December 26, 2017

The doldrums are for planning…

by Rod Smith

I call these few days between Christmas and New Year the doldrums. They’re a breather: a time to drift between calendar high points. I get nostalgic. I experience strong elements of necessary regret as I wait for the promise of the new calendar year to kick in.

I am always reminded:

  • Integrity, honesty, kindness, forgiveness, and reconciliation – all captured by the word holiness, is local. By “local” I mean immediate and with the people with whom I share every day life.
  • If it (idea, principle, program) doesn’t work right here, now and with this family member, neighbor, colleague, it’s worthless.
  • All worthwhile positive change is first internal – the outward follows the inward. It may be convenient to switch this – thinking the inward follows the outward – but doing so is a waste of time.
  • It is possible for people to regard each other with deep, authentic respect but it is impossible without commitment to profound listening. All love begins and is demonstrated with listening and listening takes commitment and time.
  • Things are not fair or reasonable or kind while one party is gaining or advancing at the expense of another.

Please, let me know the things you think about as you prepare for your year ahead. I know we can learn from each other – it just takes a commitment to listening.

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.

December 3, 2017

Ego rush

by Rod Smith

You’ve heard about an adrenalin rush. I’ve seen ego rush. I see it in in groups, teams, and in classrooms. I detect it rumbling in me. Perhaps it’s natural and part of survival.

Symptoms of an ego rush occurring:

  • Authentic conversation – the give and take and the sharing and building on ideas of others – seems impossible. It’s verbal arm-wrestling or nothing.
  • Perceived insults, rebuffs, refusals, or dismissals are stored. They lurk in awareness, crouched for attack when the timing is right.
  • What a person knows must be known and he or she will nudge and provoke until you share his or her belief in his or her superiority.
  • The ego will win by winning or it will win by losing but humility and backing down are not options.
  • Actual loss, perceived as humiliation, is temporary – a matter of perception. The “loser” will circle around and get even.
  • Everything spins around hierarchy and real engagement, the wrangling, is delayed until the hierarchy is figured out.
  • Conversations are calculated and are a means to advance an undisclosed agenda.
  • The presence of authentic humility escapes or confuses those caught up in the ego rush as much as witnessing or trying to engage in a conversation using a totally foreign language.
November 26, 2017

Picking up pieces

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

I’ve seen women and men painstakingly pick up pieces of their lives after a broken marriage.

This is necessary, natural, and understandable. Deep love, when it ends, at least for one party, is scarily disorientating.

Some never recover. A broken heart can really cause a slow (or a quick) death.

Perhaps you are you tripping over evidence of a terminated relationship. Letters, photographs, or books seem to appear from nowhere and evoke fresh pains or salt for the wounds.

A purge may be necessary, but it’s not for all.

The loot may be all you have. It can become a crucial stepping-stone to greater health. Or it can be a debilitating anchor.

I’ve been confused about why some friendships have ended. I examine memories for clues to what, how, and why things went wrong.

There are times this is unnecessary.

My damaging role is painfully clear.

The pain I caused is deep for others and obvious to me. And, my own and deserved pain is utterly near.

What do we do with our pain – deserved or not?

Options are unlimited once confession occurs.

Confession, of course, does not mean mutual forgiveness is inevitable. It’s not.

Options broaden with confession and commitment to learn from the past.

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.