Archive for ‘Triggers’

March 28, 2011

Children and death of a loved-one

by Rod Smith

1. Tell the truth, even to young children, as lovingly and directly as possible.

2. Avoid meaningless nonsense like “uncle has gone to America” – use words like “he died” and “dead.” “Gone away” or “passed away” are meaningless terms and only add to confusion.

3. Avoid nonsense like “God needed a helper and so God took your aunty.” Not only is this theological claptrap, it is likely to make a child wonder how an all-powerful God can need a beloved relative in Heaven more than a helpless child needs the same person on Earth.

4. Allow grief and mourning to freely occur for you and the child. Crying and wailing is helpful in the light of loss – stopping it up, blocking it, holding it in, will only allow natural grief to fester and transform into something unhelpful (anger, resentment) in the future.

5. If a child does not appear to be upset, don’t push the child toward your own grief. Allow the child to handle loss in his or her unique way.

6. I am of the opinion that it is helpful for children to attend funerals and to see the body. Of course I am aware that there are many who disagree and, of course, there are exceptions which include violent deaths, suicides, and so forth.

January 17, 2011

The most viewed column: When your husband says he doesn’t love you anymore…..

by Rod Smith

Attraction is only enduringly poss

80,000 online views

Of course you are going to fall apart, and mourn the loss of the future you thought you’d have.

You will feel like death itself and even welcome your own.

Then, when your mind somewhat clears, you’ll wonder what really occurred. You will question what you might have done to cause the marriage breakdown and wonder what you might have done to save it.

Then you will bargain with God, your husband, even your children, or with anyone who will listen as you urgently try to get things back to normal, and get yourself back into his heart, head, and bed.

And, when things somewhat settle, and you’ve gotten some rest, and you emerge from the initial impact of what has occurred, you will see that this is not about you, or what you did or did not do. You will see there that there is no real power in bargaining with him, or real value in your becoming whatever you think he’d prefer you to be.

You will see that, quite apart from whatever he decides to do, there is great power and value in picking up your life, one emotion at a time, and doing what is best for yourself and your children.

(November 2006)

Tell me your story. I am listening:






January 2, 2011

At the outset of a New Year let’s recognize the impossible…

by Rod Smith

There are some things a person simply cannot do for or to another person, no matter how much commitment there is, how noble are the goals, how much effort or determination is involved, or how significant the need.

This is especially true when people are in love, a condition where people are most inclined to believe in their power to change another person.

It is impossible to make another person:

1. Be happy or fulfilled, angry, change, succeed or fail.
2. Become healthier. (This does not mean that two people cannot work toward their individual health together. It means that one person cannot make another person grow in any manner.)
3. Love you, want you, need you, miss you, or trust you.
4. Love, want, need, miss or be glad to see someone else.
5. See, feel or think in a certain manner for an enduring period.
6. See the light, or get some sense into their lives.
7. Lose or gain weight, save money, want or not want sex.
8. Use or stop using drugs, alcohol and cigarettes or bad language.

December 21, 2010

This is the suicide season…..

by Rod Smith

Attraction is only enduringly possible.....

I hope you choose life.....

Suicides spike at Christmas and New Year. Untimely death is regarded as a chosen alternative to getting help with financial, addiction, relational, or chemical issues a person might experience.

If this is you, here are some thoughts to consider. I hope you will consider less dramatic, final alternatives.

Suicide is self-destruction. While family members will naturally ask what they could have done to prevent you from taking such action, your death will remain your responsibility. I’d suggest you seek the medical help even if it appears that no one cares if you live or die. At this point it is more important that you care.

Suicide is an ultimate act of prayer and freedom. While no one will be able to stop you in the event that a premature death is what you really want, there are more productive ways to engage the divine and make a statement to your survivors. There are ways to address and almost solve any problem anyone faces.

While your family and friends will reflect, mourn, and grieve over your loss they will ultimately conclude (it might take years) that you exercised your unique, terrible, human power. They will come to understand that no one can cause you to kill yourself or make you do it.

Given your freedom to choose death, I must believe there exists within you the ability to choose life – and I hope you do.

August 15, 2010

Rage is never pretty…..

by Rod Smith

Call me....

Want wisely.....

Rage is never pretty – not in you, me, nor in the man in the moon. It has no upside. It produces nothing worth having. It reduces everyone in its environment to a victim. It scares children. There’s nothing redeeming about rage. It causes physiological distress, psychological pain, and accelerates physical exhaustion. It hurts relationships. Rage is always ugly, always destructive.

Rage is never helpful

I’ve witnessed rage erupt in clients during therapy where there’s a sudden burst of rage over a matter that might appear inconsequential to the observer. I’ve seen it while I am engaged in the give and take of life – a woman loses it with her child in public, a man yells uncontrollably in the traffic, a teenager storms off from a parent in the mall.

Regretfully, I’ve felt it in me. Forces collide, my world feels out of control, I resort to blaming others for whatever I perceive as having gone wrong. Something primal snaps. I’m momentarily blind, deaf to reason. Then, I breathe deeply. I hold onto myself. Reason returns. Logic prevails. I get my focus off others. I look at myself. I take responsibility for myself. Do I always catch it? Handle it well? Of course not.

How is a person to handle a moment of rage in a loved one? Keep a level head. Walk away. Try not to react. Don’t personalize it. It’s not about you. You may participate in the precipitating event, but you don’t cause the outburst. In the moment of his or her fury don’t try to reason, negotiate, or restrain.

This too shall pass.

August 11, 2010

Anxiety will get you in the end

by Rod Smith

Behind the smile.....!

There is natural, necessary reactivity within each of us. It’s part of a primal protection mechanism. Over reacting (over-protecting) usually leads to trouble.

The higher our anxiety and the greater the threat (real or perceived), the higher are our levels of reactivity.

Thinking people, as opposed to reactive people, can think their way into a determined, cool, controlled response when faced with threat. This is usually short lived. We’ve all met “Mr. Cool-Calm” who can also quickly become “Mr. Explosive.”

Anxiety will get you in the end.

A better antidote to symptom-producing anxiety (symptoms might include irrational fear, fury, rage, some forms of depression, acts of isolation, acts defying long-held values) is to go to the source.

Anxiety breeds in unresolved family of origin issues. It lurks within immediate significant relationships, especially where unhelpful compromise and denial of Self have occurred.

So you thought you simply lost your cool or were pushed over the edge? No, you were probably howling at your forefathers or expressing some deep lack of fulfillment. You were probably trying to shed yourself of generational baggage you never agreed to carry.

All this said, as adults, we remain 100% responsible for our reactivity (rage, fury, outbursts) 100% of the time – no matter where it comes from or ominous its origin.

February 25, 2010

Explosive 16 year old. Help!

by Rod Smith

“My son (16) has from very young displayed the most unvelievable stubbornness on some issues. We have come to understand it as being inflexible explosive behaviour that it is incredibly difficult to work with. Usually there is a pattern and there are times when one is able to reason and resolve, other times there is no warning and the explosion or meltdown occurs. It is usually because he has not been able to get his own way despite our explanations. He indulges in defiant behaviour such as in this last instance, staying his bedroom for 25 hours and sleeping most of the time. Upon arising my attempts to talk to him are met with a blank. How does one handle someone who resorts to defiant behaviour when he doesn’t get his own way? I believe it is time for him to find alternate, more mature ways of dealing with issues – or am I expecting too much from a 16 yr old?” (Edited)

While I could say “take him by suprise” or “change the rules” I am going to resist suggesting the solution is easily found. He sounds depressed perhaps relating to some broader matters. I am hereby asking readers to express their opinions and experience before I tackle your question again in a few days.

Yesterday’s column clearly hit a hot button. Here are two of may responses…

“I was amazed at the description of the stubborn 16 year old. It could have been a description of a family member of mine who has been diagnosed as depressed. For a long time we all thought it was purely a self-centred nature or a short fuse. Based on learning the hard way my advice to the parent would be to stand up to his behaviour. If an explosion occurs walk out of the room. Do not try to reason or explain. Being depressed does not give anyone the right to abuse others. The depressed individual is quick to see a pattern forming: ‘If I have a tantrum everyone will do as I wish, out of fear, or just to keep the peace.’ If you fall into this trap you are setting yourself up for much misery and are not doing your depressed family member any favours by playing to their brattish behaviour.”

“My first impression was that the boy suffered from a lack of discipline. However, the problem appears to have existed from a very young age and appears to be a more deeply rooted problem. If I was in the shoes of the parents I would consult a psychologist/psychiatrist as Bi-polar comes to mind.”

One reader’s view regarding the defiant 16-year-old….

“The story of the stubborn, defiant 16-year old makes me smile. The mother has waited 16 years too long to start disciplining her son. One of my daughters had this same strong will, it was not an iron will, it was stainless steel! Her first few years made life very difficult for us, until I started reading books about the strong willed child. When she was old enough to begin understanding that her tantrums were not acceptable we began teaching her. Whenever we told her to stop whatever was unacceptable, and when I counted to 10 and she did not stop I would give her a smack with my wooden spoon on ‘the seat of learning’. After about 6 weeks the truth sank in, and I only had to warn her: the wooden spoon treatment became now very rare. She grew up into a delightful woman. The Bible tells us to spare the rod and spoil the child. Unfortunately this has now become forbidden in many countries.”

Rod Smith, MSMFT

Apparently your experience ends happily. I’d welcome a comment from your daughter whom you say is a “delightful woman” – and hear her comments on your discipline.

I fear she might be too afraid to tell her truth.

February 20, 2010

Don’t hold me accountable until you do that with your bratty kid!

by Rod Smith

“I have a daughter (5) and I have been with my partner for over a year. My daughter stays with her grandparents during the week to help me with gas. My partner does not work and I pay all the bills. He gets angry with me because he believes that I do not hold my daughter accountable. I don’t hit my child but I do talk to her so she has an

Rod Smith, MSMFT

understanding what she is doing is wrong. I do not want my daughter to fear me, I want her to respect me. He has a drinking problem and surrounds with people that are no good. When I bring up my concern he says, ‘Don’t hold me accountable until you do that with your own bratty kid.’ What am I to do? I want to leave but I feel as though he would fail himself and put himself in situations that will jeopordize his life and well being. I love him but I believe that things will never change.”

This will go nowhere worth going for you until you love yourself more than you love your daughter and you love your daughter more than you love him. I’d suggest you devise an immediate escape plan. Your daughter, not this manipulator, is your responsibility.

Jean Hatton

I think being ‘held accountable’ is a good idea, but not concerning him. I would ask you to consider that you have brought this man into your home and by so doing, have put yourself and your daughter’s well being at risk. It sounds like he has done nothing but add stress and guilt to your life as he makes demands on you to keep him happy. Loving your daughter is your priority. Be accountable for the decision that you made to bring this angry controlling man into your lives — and choose the healthy way out.

October 26, 2009

My children manipulate their stepmother….

by Rod Smith

“My son (12) and my daughter (14) don’t like their stepmother but when they play their cards right for her she buys them stuff. I don’t like to see my children manipulating to get things from her. Should I step in and say something? We are not really on good terms with each other.”

Let then be...

Let then be...

I’ll be the first to admit that the challenges I will place before you are most difficult to achieve – but I repeat: parenting is for grown ups; successful co-parenting is for saints. So…

Do all you can to get on good terms with the other woman who is co-parenting your children. I am not suggesting you become bosom pals but “cordial adults” would be a helpful arrangement for all concerned.

Avoid stepping into the mix with your children and their stepmother. All three have a lot to teach each other. Approaches from you will hinder the process. While no parent wants to see his or her children develop manipulative habits, this is a matter for you to directly address with your children. Your children will manipulate if it works, and will not, if it doesn’t. Take care of how they treat you, and allow their stepmother to discover her own unique relationship with her stepchildren.

October 22, 2009

Friday meditation

by Rod Smith

I am convinced that no matter how rough a person’s past is, or how traumatized the present might be, or how bleak or absent possibilities might seem, there is always hope for a more fulfilling future. Today I shall be an agent of hope.

I am convinced that no one is thoroughly bad (there is something redeemable in the “worst” of humanity) and no one is thoroughly good (everyone must combat his or her own “dark” side). Today I will offer guarded trust to all whom I meet.

I am convinced that while in the depths of the bleakest of circumstances, loneliness, and pain, some people attempt to display a brave front. Today I will be an agent of kindness to those who have to hide their deep pain.

I am convinced that my own happiness and fulfillment will be incomplete while it is at the expense of my integrity, while it requires someone else to lose, while it is contingent on darkness or deceit. I will live honestly and without manipulation.

I am convinced that conflict is a necessary part of fulfillment and integral to love. Today I will readily engage in helpful conflict that I may learn to love others more deeply than I have done before.