Archive for December, 2011

A New Year. New Beginnings are Possible: A Vivid Example: My Experience with “Cavemen” was Life Altering.

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

A new year approaches – a new beginning.  Beginnings offer optimism and hope of what might be possible.  Change invites reflection and thoughts of positive change.

Over the years my life has been dedicated to positive change, transformation, once as a priest, in academia, and now as a psychotherapist.  I have had the privilege of working with people committed to growth in themselves and in others.  I would like to share one very special experience of transformation with you.

The boy/man is James Hobson – he thinks that might be his name.  He is not sure if that is his real name because he does not know his biological parents; there is not birth certificate.  By the time he was fifteen he had been placed in thirty two foster homes, attended twenty two schools, and was homeless by the age of fifteen.

James was around twenty when I met him in the west side ghetto of Chicago.  He was the leader of a three thousand member gang named the Vice Lords.  He had been arrested sixty six times for gang activity.  He was know as “Caveman”.

I was there as a volunteer in the Cabrini project begun by Rev. Charles La Verde.  He was concerned about the violence and death present in the community and began this outreach effort to touch and transform their lives.  James came to Cabrini to play pool.  He was greeted by a group of caring people who treated him with respect and invited him to look at another way to live.  Over the period of three months James experienced a loving “family” who truly cared about him.  He began to change.

The impact of the spirit of the Cabrini volunteers opened new doors for James.  He clearly needed to escape his surroundings.  Military service was an option.  He was rejected by all four branches.  Finally, after many petitions and interventions by significant individuals, James was admitted into the Army.  In the course of his military stint he earned two bronze stars, three presidential commendations, and six other medals.  He attained the rank of sergeant.

Upon his return to Chicago, James was given the key to the city by Mayor Daley and a college scholarship.  James wanted to give something back to the community and has for many years worked through the parks and recreation department to reach gang members.  Currently, he is Director of the largest park district in Chicago.  He tirelessly reaches out to the estranged impoverished youth, in whom he can readily see himself.  Two years ago the cover story for the Chicago Tribune’s Sunday magazine carried an eight page story about James.

A banquet honoring James was held in Chicago.  Father LaVerde, who has been trying to start another Cabrini project in the south side ghetto, hoped that the youth of his  community would listen to someone who had “been there”. (The night before a thirteen-year-old boy was killed near the church for crossing the street into the Latin Kings’
turf.)  A few of us former volunteers came for a reunion with James and with each other.  James told his story.  Tears of joy and love were shed.  Embraces filled the room.  The evolving story of transformation had been explained.  A new man stood on stage, grateful and proud, yet tearful from the emotional damage experienced in his childhood.  I have been blessed to have been a part of this “new beginning” of James.  He is my friend.

There are other James’ out there – people of incredible potential. May you and I see them, hear them, be with them – love them. New beginnings are possible!

Happy New Year!

A Look at How You Experience the Holidays: Make Good Choices

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Holidays are a time of high emotion.  They are primarily about family and loved ones, who most of the time are the same people.  The holidays, and concomitant beliefs and emotions, lead to certain choices as to how they will be
celebrated.  Perhaps, however, you are one of those who blocks out and shuts down during these traditional times.  Surely there are reasons for that choice. If so, I hope that you will one day soon re-examine the holiday in such a way as to be able to enjoy the meaning and mirth that is possible by participating in these special days.

Many couples and family members spend much time discussing the holidays as to how they should be spent..  They oftentimes have struggles as to what is the “right” thing to do as they try to unite their past beliefs and customs with their emerging ideas and life styles.  Various pressures and expectations from significant others often cause consternation and conflict as holiday issues
appear which need resolution.

The following questions may serve as reasonable vehicles for self awareness and communication, as individuals and couples clarify and define their  WHO,  WHY, WHAT, and HOW holiday concerns: WHO  are the people close to you?  List and number them in order of closeness.  This should include family, relatives, friends, and acquaintances.  Who are the people who put pressure on you?  Who are the people with whom you most want to share this time? WHY are the people in the order you have them?  Is it because they are all that close to you or you “should” have them there? WHAT do these people expect from you during the holidays?  What do you expect from them?  What kind of changes might be in order this year?
Possible areas of discussion are meal arrangements, travel plans, lengths of stay, gifts, etc… HOW do you want to celebrate the holidays this year based on the above determinations?Are changes in traditional styles and expectations called
for?

Holidays are special.  They are meant to lift our spirits, warm our hearts, and be shared with the special people we love.  Hopefully this information will be helpful to you in making appropriate choices for you and the people that mean the most to you.  May your choices bring forth the best holiday ever!

 

Do You Know the Difference Between “I Love You” and “I’m In Love with You”. Holidays Present an Opportunity to Clarify and Deepen a Loving Relationship. Here’s How!

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

According to Andrew Marshall, the author of I LOVE YOU, BUT I’M NOT IN LOVE WITH YOU: SEVEN STEPS TO SAVING YOUR RELATIONSHIP, one in four persons have either said it or it has been said to them. To elaborate he distinguishes two types of relationships: Affectionate Regard and Loving Attachment. Both are caring relationships, the latter is an enduring “in love” romantic relationship.

Most romantic relationship begin with certain attraction factors, quality time spent, sexual connection, monogamy – and may go all the way to a marriage commitment. Marshall delineates six stages of relationship building and sustaining: 1) Blending together as a couple. 2) Nesting in comfortably together. 3) Affirming of each other and the relationship. 4) Collaborating successfully. 5) Adapting to life situations well together. 6) Renewing on a consistant basis.

There are a number of key factors needed to maintain the Loving Attachment that was achieved.  This is where so many couples drop the ball. If the relationship is going to fruitfully navigate through the above stages certain skills are needed.

1. Listening well with full attention. Asking questions.  Being attuned.

2. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and  experiences most every day.

3. Generous giving of your time, doing a job for your partner, buying a gift.

4. Body contact by gentle touch, cuddling, making love.

5. Supporting in moments of travail and encouraging dreams of the other.

6. Sense of humor by quipping, telling jokes. Laughter is a connector.

7. Going the extra mile by stretching your comfort zone to please your partner.

Marshall says that too often the Loving Attachment gets undone by destructive arguing, blaming, belittling, and not resolving issues constructively.  Too often people argue about things of the past (80% says Marshall). In my practice I see this all the time. I like to say to such history buffs, “If you cannot bring in the video recording of the past then we won’t discuss it; all you have is your individual subjective perception of what happened. You cannot move forward while looking back over your shoulder”.

Marshall addresses contemporary thinking by pointing out the fact that early childhood wiring in the family seeps into adult relationships making vulnerable intimacy difficult to maintain. Most people do not know what their early emotional
wiring is and therefore have difficulty is help their partner know how to help heal it. Time spent understanding this would greatly enhance a couple’s ability to develop a Loving Attachment.

While this is not a great book it does have some seminal ideas in it that may resonate with you and remind you to do your part to develop and maintain an “in love” relationship (Loving Attachment) rather than just being in one where you are affectionately regarded. (“not that there is anything wrong with that”) Do all you can to create and keep an “in love” relationship. It is the gold standard!

 

Have You Cut the Psychological Umbilocal Cord From Your Parents? Want to Know if You Need To?

Friday, December 16th, 2011

There are three “cords” in life that one needs to cut to attain human fulfillment:

1. The physical umbilical cord from your mother.

2. The psychological cord from each of your parents.

3. “You must cut the rope and be free”, says Zorba the Greek

 

Examples of opportunities to cut the Number 2 “cord” are:

A. “My Dad is trying to talk me into joining him in his business, but I really don’t want to. I’m afraid he’s going to be mad if I don’t”

B. “My mother expects me to call her every day.  I feel guilty for not wanting to.”

C. “I wish my parents would ask us what is a good time to visit us, rather than just telling us when they are coming, or just dropping in unannounced.”

D. “We can’t celebrate Christmas in our home, your parents expect us to go to Chicago every year with the kids.  I’d like to have our own Christmas in our home.”

E. “My mother is constantly criticizing me the way I am raising my child.”

F. “I want to go to the Universityof Georgia, but my Dad wants me to go to Georgia Tech because he went there.”

The list could go on and on.  Add your own. For those of you who are married, here is an inventory from COUPLES IN HEALTHY FAMILIES:  Respond to each statement on a scale of 1-5:  1 definitely false, 2 often false, 3 not false or true, 4 usually true, 5 definitely true.

1. My parents are supportive of my choice of partner.

2. My parents respect my right to make decisions on my own.

3. The time I spend with my family of origin is usually spent because I want to, not out of a sense of guilt or obligation.

4. I am very happy with the way my parents treat us as a couple.

5. I am very happy with the way my parents treat my partner.

6. I am very happy with the way my parents treat me.

7. My parents expect me to care for them in ways and amounts that I consider inappropriate.

8. If faced with having to choose on some issue or circumstanceI am more my spouse’s partner than my parent’s child.

9. I can comfortably invite my parents to our home.

10.I talk freely with my mother about things she does that make me angry.

11.I talk freely with my father about things he does that make me angry.

12.I express to my mother my love for her.

13.I express to my father my love for him.

14.I like the way my partner treats my parents.

15.My mother keeps a good balance between being available to help me and expecting me to run my own life.

16.I can count on my mother to say no to me if I ask too much of her.

17.My father keeps a good balance between being available to help me and expecting me to run my own life.

18.I can count on my father to say no to me if I ask too much of him.

19.My father makes no attempts to undermine my life with my spouse.

20.My mother makes no attempts to undermine my life with my spouse.

21.I spend satisfying one-on-one time with my mother.

22.I spend satisfying one-on-one time with my father.

23.My partner enjoys my family.

24.My partner feels welcomed and respected by my family.

25.I am waiting for my parents to change so my life with them will be better.

Can you relate to any of these situations?  What kind of emotions are felt with regard to your relationship with your parents?

 

The emphasis here is that too many adults, young and senior, still FEEL – and ACT – like
emotionally weak children with regard to their parents. They are afraid to confront their parent(s) and express what they really feel and want. Often this timidity is the result of a two-pronged problem, i.e. a parent talks down to, orders, criticizes the adult child.  The adult child blindly obeys, excessively pleases, or cowers so as to not receive a parent’s displeasure or rebuke.

Each person in these kinds of situations needs to throw this psychological albatross off
his/her back – in a respectful manner.  It is particularly necessary for a married couple to do this.  I have encountered many examples where a wife feels second to her husband’s mother or a husband feels his wife’s mother is too involved in their marriage.

The psychological beginnings of independence are meant to begin during adolescence when a
teenager starts to create his/her identity. If this is excessively stifled by parents, the adolescent will either meekly obey or rebel in some form or fashion. It is not easy to make this transition, but if it is not made the consequences for your personal and marital life are substantial.

In summary, the goal here is to grow up emotionally, become independent and switch your loyalty from being your parent’s child to being your spouse’s partner. Hope you have done it or are gearing up for the challenge to accomplish this growth stage. Cut the cord and dance free!

A Son Who Gets It Done and Inspires: Proud of You, Kris!

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

 

Most parents understand that they are to teach their children a number of things. Good morals and manners, responsibility, give it your best in whatever you do, etc… are a few of parental responsibilities. A parent teaches best by example which buttresses the preachments offered.  I
believe most parents try their best to be good role models and teachers of their children.  Intention is one thing. Capacity is another.  Some parents do not have the capacity, the skill sets, to effectively teach and model desired behavior.

Sherry and I have been incredibly fortunate to have our children turn out to be the special
people that they have become. (No parental bias involved here!) Each has unique and special traits that are admirable and remind us to continually try be good role models for them and “walk our talk”.

A trait that Sherry and I value highly is to do what we say we are going to do, do it when we said we would do it, and do it as best that we are able. Our son, Kris, has many strengths of character and behavior.  One of his best qualities is that he is accountable. He “shows up” and does his very best at anything he commits to. And he is tenacious!  He will give his best effort to figure out the optimal solution no matter how long it takes.  When he comes to visit us at the Lake we usually have our list of technological problems for him to address. His Management Information Systems undergraduate degree and MBA degrees from UGA have given him special skills which he diligently applies to the task before him.

It is a wonderfulfeeling for a parent to feel proud of their children and inspired by them to be
the best person possible.  I am grateful to Kris, and Brittany, for continuing to include us in their lives in the loving ways that they do. Their character and work ethic are noteworthy.

As I review this heart centered article the Socratic educator in me comes forth and asks the
following questions:

  1. Are you a good parent? Did you do your best in raising your children?  Do you owe them
    any apologies for when you have fallen short?
    (Over the years I have apologized to our children when I have fallen
    short. Probably owe them a few more which have conveniently slipped my mind!))
  2. Are you proud of your children?  Have you told them that?  In specifics?
  3. What positive attributes of your children particularly stand out?
  4. Do any of their attributes continue to remind you to do your best in a particular area?

Thanks, Kris, for being the wonderful young man that you are. You have been the inspiration for this article which I hope will inspire others along these lines.

P.S. And, Happy Birthday this week! Where are we celebrating it this year?