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September 2014

5 entries from August 2014

Fishing for a life lesson

This past weekend, my oldest daughter and I went fishing on Lake Michigan. It was our first time to ever catch fish together. She brought in a big King Salmon. It was almost idyllic to watch her struggle with a fish for thirty minutes.

Then it all went south, as the saying goes. 10556415_10152571705029718_1817027775562944827_n

Three young men were floating near us. Just bobbing up and down. No real panic displayed in their actions. Probably engaging in some illegal activity that helped them stay calm. As we turned, they called out to us that they were stranded. Their boat wouldn’t start.

So we pulled up alongside. They had no radio, no satellite, essentially nothing that they were supposed to have in order to be five miles out in the middle of a lake.

We stopped fishing an hour earlier than we wanted to stop. We got home an hour later than we had hoped to get home. All because three guys wanted to go out on a boat, and didn’t take the proper precautions.

There’s a life lesson to be had in this situation. So often, we get so caught up in our own dreams, or our own crap that we forget to think about how it might impact others.

That’s one of the biggest and toughest life lessons we have to understand, right? That what we do here, affects other people. And here’s the real kicker: it often impacts them in ways we can’t understand or anticipate.

This is one of the most common problems for couples caught in a bad narrative in their marriage. They can only see how it’s effecting them. They can only see the problem from their own perspective.
This is the thing that has to change in order for real change to begin.  If we are going to change the system that is our relationship, we are going to have to change how we view things.

Taking others point of view into consideration isn’t just polite, it’s necessary for a whole and happy life. 10599609_10152571815174718_3760272090628403442_n

We have to own the fact that our lives are not only impacted by others but that we impact the lives of others.  Whether our intentions are to alter their lives or not, we do indeed alter it. Accepting that is key to beginning the long process of change.

Thoughts on Forgiveness

I'm always fascinated by the topic of forgiveness and how it works out in every day life. As a therapist, I can honestly say that it is perhaps the most troubling thing for many of my clients to face. Not their abuse, not their affairs, not their brokenness but the brokenness of others that has seeped into their lives like an infectious disease spreading and killing.

"I don't know how to forgive," is one of the most common phrases I hear every day in therapy.

"I don't understand what it means to forgive," is probably the second most common.

So of course, when my friend Wayne told me about a book he was reading, I had to borrow it. I'm now buying it. Here's a snippet. I am hoping I'll be sharing more as I read through the book.

"Forgiveness is centered in morality, which in its simplest form is concerned with the quest for the good. When people seek the good, they do so in relation to others. Thus, morality has an interpersonal sense about it. It is not a self-satisfying, hedonistic pursuit. To be moral does not imply that one must use certain language forms or behaviors to qualify as a moral person, but it does imply that the focus is on the relationships and other people, with good intentions toward them.

            Two aspects of human goodness that are connected with forgiveness are justice and mercy, ancient forms of morality that at times seem to be connected in conflict with each other."

Enright and Fitzgibbons, Helping Clients Forgive, pp. 23


It's time to move past comparative pain and passions

I admit the world is an interesting place to me. I’m not typically someone who laments life.
I don’t always agree with stuff I hear and I’m often willing to engage it with the person. I joke with my friends about poking the bear.  Interacting with others about how they feel and think is sometimes, like poking a bear. Sometimes, we need to poke another bear or we need our bears poked.

It’s how we grow. Face_male_kodiak_bear

But yesterday I saw something I admit I don’t understand. I was sitting in my office and one of our Sr. Associates who was sitting next to me said, “Oh boy!” Of course, I asked what was up.
“Well, this guy’s newsfeed reads, “An actors death has dominated the newsfeed but how about all of the kids dying in _______.”  

This intrigued me  so I went looking at various places in the beautiful place called the world wide web. Sure enough, there were people lamenting all sorts of causes that weren’t getting as much attention as Robin Williams death.  

On one level I get it.

But on most levels, I think those people just come across as jerks. They’re acting like they have the corner on what should be important to everyone.
This happens a lot in Facebook land.
I get it.

But I don’t. Yes, people are dying in the Middle East, 1 in 5 children in America face hunger, there is rioting and looting in the Mid-West over a possibly race motivated killing. All of this is true.
But here’s the thing: Lamenting Robin Williams death doesn’t negate those truths. It doesn’t diminish them.

It doesn’t impact them at all.  It just makes you look grumpy and mean or worse.

An ancient writer wrote that there is a time and season for everything. I agree with that thought. I don’t think the time to get your personal passion out there is by juxtaposing it against someone else’s tragedy.

You sound like you’re trying to minimize their pain. Sometimes, it sounds like you're trying to invalidate their pain. Arguing with someone about their pain rarely works. When we essentially say, "well, you're in pain but this thing over here is worse and you should care about that..." we set ourselves up as some sort of judge. It's always a sketchy when we're trying to balance out why our cause should be more important than someone else's, especially when they are experiencing a new wound. Scales-295109_640

Be passionate about those other causes. Our world needs that passion. But, to be effective we need it to be done at the appropriate time. We need you to have real, genuine empath for the pain other people are feeling.

To paraphrase another ancient writer, “If you have your great cause, but you don’t have love you have nothing.”

Come down and sit in the pain of the people around you. Allow them to feel their pain. When the time is right, share your passion with them.

Thanks for reading. As always, if you like this post, please feel free to share it via your preferred social media experience.

Robin Williams, and our Societal Obsession with Happy

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last twenty-four hours, you probably know that Robin Williams has died in what appears to be a suicide.

Like many, I was shocked by the news. At first, I thought it was  hoax. The idea that we live in a world where for many the first thought when they hear about someone dying is a hoax is probably fodder for another post in the future.

But what about Williams? Robin_Williams_2011a_(2)

Williams isn’t the first celebrity to take his own life or accidentally end life while trying to numb something through drugs or alcohol usage.  And yet, every time we see shocked by it. I think there are a couple things to learn from Williams death.

I think we need to learn from it or else we waste it. His death is tragic. It is terrible. It is senseless. It leaves behind a grieving widow and fatherless children. It also highlights our false belief that money, success and things satisfy.

1. We have to accept that money, success and happiness will not bring us happiness. I wrote about this when Whitney Houston died. We create a false narrative in our head that we’ll be happy when _____________ (fill in the blank) happens. Of course, that is patently false and broken. We have a plethora of data to prove this to us and yet we functionally live in a way that denies and ignores this fact.  Those things aren’t wrong, but they simply don’t satisfy.  
We have to stop chasing things that don’t matter.
2. We have to realize that there probably a lot of people we know, who are in our close circle of friends who are struggling with depression and anxiety.
Someone you know is probably struggling with the thoughts of ending her life today.
We have to realize that there are far more people than we are comfortable admitting who struggle daily with the idea of ending their lives.

We tend to create caricatures in our head of what a depressed person looks like and how he acts.  Sometimes, those caricatures are correct. Most of the time they are dead wrong.
People truly bent on killing themselves rarely tell anyone overtly. They communicate it ways that are often almost impossible to see looking forward. Usually, they are brought into clarity when they are seen looking backward but by then it is too late.

So if you think you might know someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression, ask them. Ask them how you might be able to help. Ask them if they are thinking about hurting themselves.

Depressed people often feel stuck because they need to move in order get unstuck but the depression causes them to feel like moving is hopeless so they stay stuck.
They may get mad at you. Your own narrative may tell you that it’s none of your business, but push through that. Reach out.

The thing is, with people contemplating suicide, they are working on a plan. They are not seeing clearly.
They are hurting and stuck. What they are not, is typically logical. Their world is bent by their disease. Applying the logic of those of us who do not suffer from this disorder is not only unfair, it’s silly.

Robin Williams death is a tragedy for his family and loved ones. I am afraid it will be more of a tragedy because as a society we will once again fail to learn how to handle those around us who are depressed.
In our society, we seem to have no place for people who aren’t happy  all the time. Many depressed people learn to just fake it because as a society we want people to be happy all the time and we typically see what we want to see.

May we find the courage to see what it is,not simply what we want to be.

If you are feeling suicidal please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Don't Quit: A favorite poem from my childhood

This poem hung in my parents house almost the entire time I was growing up. I memorized just by the fact that I saw it every day.

I thought it a fitting post for my return to blogging here.

Don't Quit by John Greenleaf Whittier

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all up hill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest, if you must, but don't quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As everyong of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out,
Dont' give up though the pace seems slow,
You may succeed with another blow.

Success is falure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.