Archive for September, 2014

Our Anniversary: Vows, Music, & Life!! Yours?

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

What people say, commit to, create, and the musical words that can add inspiration to a life going forward are important for a joyous existence. Sherry and I are celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary on September 30th. I thought I would take a short walk down memory lane and share it with you. Hopefully it will remind you of your special marriage date, inspire you to make some corrections if needed in that commitment, or get it right when you shall next vow.

I met Sherry in 1977, married her in 1978. I knew quite quickly that she was “the one”! I asked her to marry me via a poem. In spite of my poem, she said “Yes”. Thus, I have continued to write a poem to her on every anniversary, birthday, Mother’s Day, and Valentine’s Day. She says she likes them and continues to live with me so they must be adding something to my attempts to continue to make her feel as special as I think she is.

Sherry and I are essentially simple folks. We are not into things lavish. Our wedding reflected that as we had a small wedding at an outdoor pavilion overlooking Lake Lanier. We wrote our own vows, memorized them, and shared them from our heart. We rented a preacher who pronounced the necessary words and documented efficiently for the State. We chose our songs with intent and found a guitar player/singer to set the mood and reflect our style as we moved forward as a married couple.

The selected music for the wedding still is in my heart – and on my I Phone!  I listen to the songs often, reminiscing on one of the happiest days of my life. They also serve to lighten my mood when the day begins with clouds in my mind and the coffee has yet to kick in! Three of the songs are Time in a bottle (Jim Croce), The Wedding Song (Peter, Paul, & Mary), and Follow Me (John Denver).

My point in this personal writing is to express boldly my love for my wife and best friend and to invite you to do a reflection around your wedding(s). What were you thinking and feeling as you approached and experienced your wedding date? Did you have the wedding you deep down wanted?  Did you personalize it with music that spoke to your heart, as well as your spouse’s? Did your wedding set the tone for a life of happiness together? If not, what might be done to make it better? Or perhaps you are into a new one. Better?

Sharing one’s existence with a life partner in which love is reciprocally shared is special. Hopefully you, Respected Reader, are in such a relationship or will be in the future. Do whatever it takes to make it happen. You deserve such happiness!

Happy Anniversary, Sherry!  “You’re still the one” (I’d sing it to you, but I cannot sing. Poem coming!)

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

“12 Ways To Forgive Your Parents For Doing Such A Crummy Job In Raising You”!

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Love the internet! It’s amazing what all I can find there. One of this week’s finds was a blog by Ken Wert. His blog is the title of this article.  I will list his twelve “ways” and add my own commentary on this topic.  Parenting has an enormous effect on you as you evolve your personhood.  Some parents do a good job, some suck. Yours? If you are a parent, are you doing a good job?  Better than your parents?

Mr. Wert asks, “Have you been holding onto childhood pain?  Do you harbor deep- seeded resentment for the way your parents raised you?  Do you blame them for the circumstances of your life today?” He says, and I agree, that unless you find ways to let go and move on you will be “condemned to a life plagued by the energy-sapping, happiness stunting emotions of deep-seeded anger and resentment”.

I would add another element to this by including adult children who are blaming their parents for their current misery based on something the parent has done in more recent times.  I continually come across adult children who are mad at one of the parents for decisions the parent does in his or her life. Example: an adult child who will not forgive a parent for divorcing the other parent.

The 12 ways to let go and move on:

  1. REDEFINE YOUR RELATIONSHIP: Who are your parents today?  Have they changed?  Allow them to change. They may be worth having in your life now if you can get over the past. Most “kids” want to be connected with their parents, not to leaves a void in their lives, no matter what age they may be.
  2. BE GRATEFUL FOR THE BLUEPRINT OF WHAT NOT TO DO RAISING YOUR KIDS: Examine what parental practices that they exhibited and the effects on you.  Some of this blueprint needs improvement in your version.
  3. FORGIVE THEM FOR BEING THE ONLY THING THEY KNEW HOW TO BE: Your parents may well have been limited in their capacity to be good parents.  Do you ever wonder how they were raised and, therefore, why they parented as they did?  Few parents get up in the morning and look for ways that they could hurt their kids.
  4. RECOGNIZE THEY ARE LIKELY PRODUCTS OF THEIR OWN PARENTS’ MISTAKES AND FLAWS: Moms and Dads are products of their own parents’ strengths and weaknesses.  In many cases they perpetuated what they received.
  5. WRITE IT DOWN: Sometimes we bury our painful feelings where they fester and decay and then infect our lives in other negative ways. Writing your experiences and feelings can be clarifying and cleansing, thus enabling the door to letting go to swing open. Perhaps after reviewing the painful events you could light it afire and let it disappear into nothingness.
  6. LEARN FROM PARENTAL STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES: Since you saw them up close you have had many opportunities to see very clearly what some of their positives and negatives were.  With that upfront and personal knowledge you can define and live a better model.
  7. READ THE BOOK, “A CHILD CALLED IT”, THEN BE GRATEFUL: The book allegedly helps you see the relativity of your experience.  Some have had it much worse.  Your parents had some redeeming qualities, didn’t they?
  8. LET THE WORK YOU DO IN YOUR OWN HOME BE THE SALVE THAT HEALS THE WOUNDS IN YOUR HEART: In other words, parent yourself vicariously through parenting your own children.  Extend to them what your parents failed to extend to you and allow the love flowing from you to your children to heal the wounds from the lack of love flowing to you as a child.
  9. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN LIFE: “I am who I choose to be”. Learn how to be healthier as a person and better as a parent.
  10. TALK TO THEM: Try to be calm and dispassionate, but clear.  Ask them their perspective, try to understand, then let go.  See if a healthy relationship can be developed with clear expectations and boundaries.
  11. STOP PUTTING SO MUCH STOCK IN HOW YOU WERE RAISED: The past is over.  Work on overcoming emotional obstacles and other personal obstructions and get on with living well.
  12. ASSUME GOOD INTENT: When we assume good motives behind misguided practices and weak wills, it is often easier to overlook and forgive their failures.

Well, what do you think?  Are you ready, willing, and able to forgive your parents and move on?  What steps may need to be taken to make that happen?  Enlightened communication?  And know, in spite of the “crummy” job your parents did in raising you, you turned out to be pretty special, did you not?

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

Couples Or Family Counseling: “I Don’t Have A Dog In This Fight”

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

 

Ever heard that expression?  It’s one of those good ol’ Southern expressions.  Do you know what it means? It is saying that what is going on is none of my business (NOMB). I am not invested in the issue du jour.  I use the expression fairly often to make a point when counseling couples. It is part of my message to them to say that I am an impartial facilitator of a process.  I do not judge, but I do describe.  I am not on anyone’s side.  I care about the process and the outcome but I am impartial.

In couples counseling each individual brings up issues that are of concern.  Usually they have examples to illustrate that concern.  However, when the example is discussed each person usually has a different take on what was said and done by the other.  Thus a power play develops with each person trying to convince me of what “really” happened.  Often this rhetoric can get heated.  I intervene early in this escalating combat by saying unless either one of them can produce a video of what happened we will quit this argument about what took place.  We are wasting valuable time and your money in trying to see who was “right”.

Each person has his or her perception of what has gone on that has caused these disagreements and distancing between them.  In trying to gain each person’s trust I restate my neutrality.  “I don’t have a dog in this fight”. I do care and focus on helping each person articulate the issues, ask for desired outcomes based on perceived needs, facilitate good communication, define goals, and get each person to commit to work out acceptable compromises.

I like to think of a counseling session as a laboratory when couples learn and practice better ways of relating to each other.  In doing this I will often say that this or that behavior works against the relationship and try to teach them a better way. Occasionally one person or the other will disagree with my assessment and say that I am biased and on the other person’s side.  Again, I will try to defuse this defensive move of “shooting the messenger” by reiterating “I don’t have a dog in this fight”!  I am trying to help each person learn a better way of loving his or her partner. Sometimes this works, other times the aggrieved person will either quit counseling or stay mad at me. If he or she stays in counseling it becomes clear that I do not play favorites and that I do care about each of them.  Good counseling does not always feel good to the people involved – nor does restorative surgery, chemo or physical therapy!   To hear that you are not doing something right makes people defensive.  Certain habits are difficult to change.  But for those who stick it out and witness an improved relationship see that it was worth the pain of effective therapy.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”

Teen Brains: What The Heck Is Going On In There!?

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

The teen years are challenging! (Insight of the week!) They are challenging for both parents and teens – although for different reasons. For both it is helpful to better understand what is going on in the teen brain with the onset of puberty. Puberty opens the door to a significant new stage of evolving life for teenagers and the parents who try to cope with these changing earth forms in your home.

Adolescence has been studied by many to try and understand why such significant change and turmoil takes place during this phase of life.  Freud called this period “an expression of torturous psychosexual conflict”. Erickson stated it to be the “most tumultuous of life’s several identity crises”.

The advent of brain imaging has brought forth new understanding of what is going on in the teen brain. It is able to reveal its physical development and patterns of activity. These images have shown that human brain undergoes a massive reorganization between the 12th and 25th years. It doesn’t really grow that much during this period for the brain is actually 90 per cent of its full size by the age of six. It is the remodeling, resembling a network, and wiring upgrade that is being addressed here. I could bore you with the science of these changes by talking about axons, neurons, myelin, dendrites but I don’t think that is of your interest.

More interesting is what brain imaging shows about how the teen brain functions as compared to the adult brain.  For example teens make less use of brain regions that monitor performance, spot errors, plan, and stay focused than do adults.  This is hardly news BUT it does explain why teens do not have the capacity that adults do to function better in these areas. Perhaps we sometimes expect too much from teens when in fact their brain is not capable of doing certain things. Parents need to know what their teens’ capacities are in every aspect before asking them to do certain things.

As the teen brain matures developing richer networks and faster connections their executive region becomes more effective and consistent.  While this process is taking place they have what Vassar psychologist, Abigail Baird, calls neural gawkiness – an equivalent to the physical awkwardness that teens sometimes display while mastering their developing bodies. This slow and uneven development of the teenage brain often is reflected in excess drama, angst, idiocy, impulsiveness, dangerous activity, selfishness, recklessness, sensation seeking … . You can probably add a few more dysfunctional behaviors emanating from the teenage brain, your kids or yourself when you were in that stage.

Excitement, novelty, risk, and peer relationships are normative behaviors for most teens. As they move away from dependence on parents and seek both independence and closer relationship with their peers they send inconsistent messages to parents. “Leave me alone” and “I need you” both exist within the evolving teen brain.

Parents need to keep loving their kids, offering nurturance, security, reasonable age related expectations and consequences while finding the balance point between helping and not hindering the kids’ growth. Staying engaged without intruding or abandoning kids that are inconsistent is not easy, but giving your best usually results in the outcome desired – that your kids turn out to be as special as you are – perhaps even better!!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”     Socrates

Special Needs Kids Need Special Parents!

Friday, September 5th, 2014

In my practice I occasionally meet with parents who have special needs kids. By “special needs”, I mean a child who has physical, intellectual, emotional, or behavioral challenges that are causing him/her difficultly in moving forward in concert with his/her peers. These challenges call for unique responses by parents and, sometimes, the school system. Such concerns are a call to action by parents who are attuned to their child’s condition and environment.

Some Special Needs kids’ issues arise from their genetics. Others come from their brain’s adaptation to their early childhood environment. Oft times both genetics and environmental conditioning are the causal factors.

These Special Needs, out of “norm”, child presents challenges and opportunities for parents to help create success experiences for their child. If this challenge is not met the child will stumble and not reach his/her potential and will probably be saddled with depression and low self esteem.

I see kids with ADD/ADHD, Asberger’s Syndrome, excessive anger, deep seated rebellion, extreme depression and/or anxiety, etc… . I see each child as unique and try to evaluate where on the continuum of the diagnosis he or she may fall. I try to work with the parents to empower their child, focusing on his or her strengths, and develop strategies to optimize the child’s potential and find happiness on the road to a successful life.

It is very satisfying to work with parents who are wise enough, loving enough, and willing to put in the extra effort called for to assist a Special Needs child to move forward developmentally. These parents make many a sacrifice to “be there” for their child in such cases.

On the other hand, it breaks my heart to work with parents who don’t “get it” – parents who won’t do the necessary things that their child needs to flourish. The child feels the hurt and pain associated with such parental negligence and his/her condition is exacerbated accordingly. This emotional hurt is heaped on to the emotional abuse these children frequently encounter at school. Their peers often make cruel comments to them which makes them feel further isolated and depressed.

Special Needs kids may need extensive testing to further understand how their brain functions and what changes may be recommended on their behalf. They may need a change in schools, or classroom – perhaps home schooling.

Often Special Needs kids may well need changes in the home environment furnished by their parents, i.e. parents fighting less, substance abuse, rageful or controlling style, etc… . Inappropriate parenting styles and home environment exacerbate their condition.

Each child is unique and desires to be understood, nurtured, and be given the opportunity to grow into a fulfilled life. You parents are your child’s primary architect. Hopefully, in concert with the appropriate professionals, you are creating and executing a successful design plan. It is your privilege, opportunity, and responsibility. Please, do your best!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”     Socrates