I grew up in an ultra-orthodox Jewish home. My mother suffered from mental illness and my father dealt with it by being out of the house all day. As the oldest in a large family, I took responsibility of my parents and siblings from a very young age. I tried to protect my siblings from the discomfort I felt. I thought I was happy. I liked being in control. In hindsight, I was anxious, sad, scared, and controlling. I used food for comfort, being overweight most of my life. I married young, possibly, as an escape from my parents’ home, or just because it was culturally the right next thing to do. Within a short period of time our family grew. I continued behaving in the way that was familiar to me, keeping everyone safe, controlling, rescuing and enabling. My anxiety escalated. I isolated. I thought I was in control.
Viewing entries tagged with 'connection'
Therapists often talk about healthy detachment, but what about connecting and being close to our children?
I don’t know about you, but when I start something new, I often find myself jumping in with both feet, needing to learn everything there is about it, craving to get everything I can out of each and every experience. This is especially true of my new position at Evoke. How could one not be intrigued by all this, right?
Not long ago I was working in our adolescent girls group as we transitioned from one field area to another. The drive started off stressfully when two group members expressed frustration about seating arrangements. An outsider might have described the two of them as smoldering for about the first 45 minutes of the ride. Then they asked us to check the radio for reception. It did nothing more than crackle, but they perked up slightly all the same. The staff members in the car chatted cordially as the two girls continued to look out the window. Fifteen minutes later or so the girls asked us to check again, and eureka! It worked. Separate two teenagers from popular culture for a few months and, predictably, you’ll get some excited screaming when the radio comes on. The first song was “Drops of Jupiter” by Train, and I think all 5 of us were singing, staff and students alike. I harmonized.
We arrived early at the conference space adjacent to the ever-flowing Deschutes River to set up for the first day of our Parent Workshop. Right away I noticed the tables and chairs had been arranged in straight rows from the front of the room to the back, modeling a standard classroom style. I took a deep breath and with a smile I enlisted help to immediately move the tables out of the way so that the chairs could be arranged in one large circle to accommodate the twenty parents and five Evoke participants.
If you were to describe yourself at work as a force of nature, what would you be? A still mountain. A flowing steam. A tornado! How about at home or leisure? My wife says I am like a Fire at home - like a fireplace to give warmth and love, sometimes a firecracker to give fun and excitement, and sometimes an engine for the train.
Sitting down to write, I can smell that distinct smell of wet creosote. It’s raining in the distance. That smell – wet earth and turpentine – is either alluring or repulsive based on personal experience. For me, it means 30 years of coming back to the desert when I’m feeling happy, sad, overwhelmed… any time I need to feel my roots under me again. Yes, the desert is my home.
While facilitating family intensives at Evoke Therapy Programs, I ask each family member what they would like to gain from the 4-day workshop. They almost always say the same thing. They want to walk away with tools for a new way of communicating. While I know that not all of our relationship problems can be solved with communication tools, I find that there are some simple skills, which, if followed, begin to change the way we think and relate to others.
During my son’s time in Wilderness Therapy, my wife and I were asked to come for a day visit. The goal was nebulous, but I assumed it was simply to have some time to connect and to possibly provide his therapist with some information for future family therapy work. We made our trip out to the field area—only getting lost twice—and finally arrived at the boy's group. Our reunion was tender and tearful. The simple way we used to describe the therapy to our youngest child, Isabella, was that Jake “was in the mountains, learning how to be happy.” It had been 8 weeks since we had last seen Jake, and after hugs and greetings, we sat down to learn about how and what he was doing. Although I had served hundreds of families as a Wilderness Therapist, I had never quite experienced the kind of joy I felt from seeing all this new growth and insight in my son.
Parents often believe that praise is the key to creating self-esteem in their child. This thinking is so common it deserves some lengthy evaluation.
In Nurture Shock, authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explore many commonly assumed parenting “truths” by looking to emerging research. One of the many topics they look at is the changing concept of self-esteem. They explore the relationship between our culture’s declining regard towards hard work and their research which shows a steady decline in self-worth—this is because hard work often instills a sense of purpose. For example, they concluded that hard work has been replaced by recreation in many American families.