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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Ontario Canada’

Misunderstanding Anger (Part II)

Friday, July 27th, 2012

In Part I, we discussed how misunderstandings trigger anger and how different people can see the same trigger differently. I wondered if we could identity a common denominator in most disagreements and if so, was it possible we could eliminate teen aggression, couple aggression and arguments between friends, family and peers? Is there a way to bring about fewer altercations, better family unity and understanding between people with less arguments and fighting?

What is your definition of an opinion? Before reading ahead, think for a moment. An opinion is a personal perspective, feeling, belief or desire. A person can try to support that opinion, however, they may base it on unsubstantiated information, in contrast to fact-based beliefs. A fact is something that has really occurred or is actually the case. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability; that is, whether it can be shown to correspond to experience. In other words, a fact is something that can be proven true while an opinion is someone’s feelings about a particular topic.

Opinions are usually very personal. It is based on what I think. That is, my opinion is based on my understanding or misunderstanding, assessment or analysis of a situation. Inasmuch as an argument uses evidence, facts, statistics, testimonials, etc. to persuade the listener, an opinion is a personal response using logic and personal experience and background.

Why is it that people interpret what they hear from others as a personal attack rather than the other person’s opinion? I think its because we have a tendency to be set in our beliefs. We want to believe what we believe, so we take things personally. One easy way to see this in action is to watch when people discuss either religion or politics. People have a difficult time when others disagree with their religious or political opinions because they feel they are “right” and, therefore, the other person must be “wrong.” If I’m right you must be wrong. If you don’t agree with me, then you are challenging my “rightness.” This is just a microcosm of the bigger picture.

The question is: Why can’t we accept another person’s opinions without feeling as if they are challenging us? On a subconscious level, most people really want others to be like themselves, think the way they think and believe what they believe. Of course, most of us will deny this, but through studies and observations it has become clear that this is very often the case. Each of us has an unconscious need to be right. Therefore, too many of us can’t handle daily challenges because we interpret them as personal attacks.

Once a person interprets a situation as a personal slight, he automatically tries to “defend” himself and that leads to a disagreement, argument and fight. This is the beginning of conflicts, family feuds and disagreements of various degrees.

The natural response to a challenge or angry response is what I call the “anger circle.” That is, anger is so contagious that if one senses that another person is angry with them, the natural reaction is for them to get angry with that person. Look around and observe this for yourself. Watch how anger leads to more anger. For example: A teenager is late coming home for curfew; his mother is waiting at the door. She is upset and angry because he is late again. When the teen comes in the door, how does he react to that anger – he gets angry. Why? She didn’t do anything to him. The answer is simple: anger is contagious. In fact, when the son gets angry all that happens is that the situation escalates.

Lately I have been challenging some of my anger management clients with the following statement: “There is no such thing as emotions.” Of course, when I say this they think their therapist has finally lost it. Their comments are usually along the lines of, “What do you mean there is no such thing as emotions!! My anger, my depression, my love, my anxiety! Ed, are you crazy. Of course there are emotions!” At that point I ask them to let me finish my sentence, “there is no such thing as emotions – without thoughts.” This is a critical statement, one that must be fully understood. All emotions are derived from the brain, from our interpretation of events, comments or situations. For example, if someone tells you that you are the most special person in the world, that they love you dearly, their life would not be the same without you, how would that make you feel? Most of us would feel cared for, appreciated, happy and so forth. However, if those same words of flattery were in a language you did not understand, you would not have those same wonderful feelings. In fact, you would probably have no feeling whatsoever. That is because the brain must translate, analyze and process what was said into thought and then the feelings come from that. This is a basic example of “there is no such thing as emotions – without thought.” Our thoughts lead to our feeling, which, by the way, lead to our actions and behaviours.

A Mother Remembered: A Year Later (Part I)

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

It’s been a year now since my mother passed away at the age of 98. In my writings, I try to focus on better ways to understand family dynamics, how to deal with our children and become better parents, spouses and friends. I believe most every event we experience in our lives gives us something to learn from. Even more so, I have come to believe that events we cannot make any sense of when they happen have some potential to make us better people – including those we deal with on a regular basis: our friends, children, parents, etc.

In this two-part article, I would like to share some of my memories of my mother, and to connect those memories to learning about better relationships.

I hesitate to say that my mother was a very special woman. Not that it isn’t true, but rather I don’t want to minimize the millions of other mothers who are, or were, special to their children. Thank G-d my mother had a very full life – a life of giving to others and caring about everyone. As this year of aveilus (mourning) comes to an end, I can’t help but reminisce about the good and bad times, the happy and the sad.

My mother was born and raised in the state of Georgia and my father in Germany. I remember growing up in Georgia during the days of segregation and learning from my parents to look beyond the popular beliefs of the time and see the good in all people. I remember our nanny who practically raised us and how my brothers and I loved her as much as she loved us.

I remember my maternal grandparents (and the impact of never knowing my paternal grandparents who were slaughtered in the Holocaust). They were extraordinary. For as long as I could remember my grandmother was an invalid. In those days they weren’t sure why she couldn’t walk, but I remember hearing that maybe she had multiple sclerosis. I remember how my mother used to go over to my grandparent’s home on a daily basis to assist my grandfather and the caregivers. I remember being in the third grade and moving in with my grandparents for almost six months while our house was being built. Years later my parents had added to our home and my grandparents and my mother’s aunt came to live with us. As a child, I never realized how much of a strain this was on my parents.

The love between my grandparents was something rarely seen, even today. My fondest memory is seeing them sitting together in front of the television, my grandfather in a large comfortable chair and my grandmother in her wheelchair, holding hands. It still amazes me that I can’t remember them ever arguing or raising their voices to one another. Every day my grandfather would put my grandmother in their old Studebaker and they would go out for a ride. And their love encompassed others – I always felt special when I would go with them.

When we were very young my father managed an abattoir (slaughter house) for a Jewish family in the small city we lived. After the plant closed, my father began working as a traveling salesman. My mother was always busy with us boys, and shopping and taking care of her parents and aunt. She never complained, and even found time to volunteer in our small Jewish community. Life in a small southern city wasn’t easy. My parents always struggled. Yet, somehow, I remember them always being there for others. Whether it was my grandparents, our extended family, my father’s employees, colleagues or family friends, everyone seemed to come to my parents if they needed help.

As a teen, I was always curious and searching, though I didn’t know what I was searching for. At some point I told my parents I wanted to go to military school. Though they couldn’t afford it, they borrowed the money and I went to military school for my last three years of high school. It was there that I became very curious about my yiddishkeit. My parents identified strongly with Judaism, but we had very little real knowledge. My early life was surrounded by prejudice and racism, yet my parents always stressed the importance of equality. With the help of my religious paternal aunt and uncle who lived in New York, I enrolled in one of the only yeshivas for boys without a background in Judaism on the day I graduated from high school.

I remember calling to tell my parents after I met my eishes chayil, and how they totally accepted her and her family before even meeting them. They insisted on making a vort (engagement party) for us in Georgia. Oh, what memories. Until her final day, my mother took great pride in calling my wife “her daughter” – as she used to say, she loved her as if she had given birth to her.

Are You A Caterpillar Or Butterfly

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Have you ever seen pictures or a video of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly – what a miraculous site, truly a confirmation of the Creator constantly at work. The caterpillar itself starts off as an egg and transforms into the larvae or caterpillar. Then the amazing transformation continues as it develops into the most beautiful butterfly. Another testimony to the spectacular wonders all around us..

People also undergo transformations. As a child, we speak, think and act like a child. As a teenager we speak, think and act like a teenager (whatever that means). As an adult, how do we speak, think and act? Is there a natural transformation, a metamorphosis over time for people in how they think, feel and act? This is a very philosophical question; however, it has great ramifications for our day-to-day functioning. Likewise, it serves as a starting point for how we relate to and treat others.

In fact, how we view ourselves has a direct influence on how we act. Our sense of self, our self-judgment, also referred to as our self-esteem, has major effects on our functioning capacity. Fragile self-esteem, which most of us tend to have, causes the many ebbs and tides of feelings and ability to control our emotions and actions. In a book entitled Psychological Trauma and the Adult Survivor: theory, therapy, and transformation by Lisa McCann and Laurie Anne Pearlman, they discuss how trauma victims often view themselves as if their inner sense of themselves and their world is disrupted. As in most therapies, they describe how the transformation of the sense of self is developed through a new reality that is both adaptive and safe. This is but one understanding of the importance of therapy as a means of counsel and personal growth.

So many of our clients hesitate to seek help. For some it seems to be natural to deny the need for help – for as long as possible. As they say, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” That’s basically trying to convince yourself that if “I think its not broken, its not broken.” To seek help one has to first come to terms with and accept that there is a problem. Such acceptance is in itself anxiety producing and painful. As much energy as denial takes, admitting a problem could take more. How many times do those in psychological pain scream out, “Leave me alone”? Sometimes this is truly a sign of their depression, but other times it’s more a sense of being overwhelmed and in pain.

I often ask my clients, “What’s the difference between spending and investing?” What do you think the answer is? To seek help, to recognize the need for therapy and counselling, one must understand the significance in these two concepts.

Think of this question in terms of money. To spend means that we take the money, give it to someone else for the purpose of acquiring something on a temporary basis. Why temporary? Because everything we acquire is temporary. If we buy food, we eat it and it’s gone. If we buy clothing, we wear it until we are tired of it or it wears out and it’s gone. If we buy a large item like a car, or even a home, it depreciates and that part is gone. When we spend, we know that at the end of the day, it’s gone. However, to invest means that we give money for the purpose of, and in the hope, of walking away with more than when we started. That’s the intent.

Therapy is the same idea. If the client comes to spend time with me, they walk away spending their money and have nothing to show for it. When they leave the therapy room, everything is forgotten. They spent their time and now “on with life.” However, the client who will invest time in therapy will leave with more than they came with. This client thinks over what was realized in therapy, uses new insights and skills from the therapy session and comes back to the next session ready to acquire more than before. The client who benefits most from therapy is the one who can invest in the time they spend with the therapist.

Back to the caterpillar and butterfly… The metamorphosis from the egg to the butterfly came up in a therapy session with a 13-year-old boy last week. You ask how that could be! Well, this boy has been coming to see me for about eight months. Emile is an interesting boy. He lives with his single (divorced) dad. He has suffered much emotional distress and loss in his life. However, at 13 he would rather not be in therapy but playing with his friends; or should I say fighting with his “friends.” Emile has many social and learning problems. He has had great difficulty focusing, be it on schoolwork or socializing or listening to his father. However, over the past eight months their relationship has certainly changed. Emile has had an amazing transformation. I say amazing, because one of Emile’s interesting characteristics is his resistance to change. Actually, he is resistant to looking closely at himself, his sadness and the conflicts in his life. It has been an interesting journey as Emile’s resistance to the therapy sessions has certainly reduced while at the same time he still refuses to deal with emotional issues. He can totally shut down when delicate issues, like his mother, come up. In fact, Emile’s father sits in on each session to “help” keep Emile on track. His father is very dedicated to Emile while, at times, he gets very frustrated with his son. The frustrations extend to wanting to prove his love, to getting Emile to listen to him, to getting Emile to accept responsibility for his actions at home, school and in the community.

There Is Nothing New Under The Sun – Or Is There?

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

(Ecclesiastes 1:9-14) What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.

From Ecclesiastes we learn the expression “there is nothing new under the sun” and when you read history you see how true this is. From cults to politics it seems as if nothing is really ever new. That also includes technology. While a certain invention or discovery can be classified as new, we often find it in nature much earlier. Arctic fish used anti-freeze in their bloodstreams long before people put it in their cars. There are airplanes, but birds flew much earlier; there are satellites, but the moon was there earlier. Whales are better than submarines and as for nuclear fusion; the sun and stars had that worked out long before we did.

This theme of “nothing new under the sun” came up on Tisha B’Av. It’s not a new theme and has shown itself from biblical sources to popular songs. However, in spite of the above, I question if this is really true. I don’t question that many modern innovations are often taken from the ancient, but is it possible that “there is nothing new under the sun?”

In fact, when one analyzes life today, it is relatively easy to say that there is nothing new. Politicians still do whatever they want, wars continue to be fought throughout the globe, people continue to cheat others and have meaningless hatred for one another. Children still test their parents and couples still cheat on one another. Look through the annals of history. People have always behaved that way. Homosexuality isn’t new; it’s in the Bible. Cheating on measurements; it’s in the Bible. Land grabs; it’s in the Bible. Power grabbing from the small people; it’s in the Bible. In fact, I think we could find current events in the Bible. So, perhaps it’s true, “nothing new under the sun.”

I remember learning from one of my professors that in psychology it’s not necessarily the behavior one needs to concentrate on; it’s the extent of the behavior. In other words, we all have tendencies towards all behaviors and pathologies. It’s the extent of those behaviors that crosses the line to pathology. Many doctors believe that we all carry the potential for certain serious illnesses. However, there’s something within our society or even chemical makeup that causes one person to develop the disease and not the next person.

Could this also be true when it comes to how our children develop? Does child development, and even parenting, fall under the same mantra of “nothing new under the sun?” Is what we did in the “olden days” still relevant and can be used as guidelines for today? Should Dr. Spock’s parenting book be required reading for all parents? (A different question for another time is whether parenting courses should be required in all high schools). Is what we knew before as relevant today to what we need to know now when it comes to parent child rearing and child development?

I would like to argue that there are new things all around us. True, we learn that the Bible incorporates everything from the past to the future. However, that doesn’t mean that we have experienced everything that is in store for us. Even if everything we experience today has a basis in history, we cannot rely on past experiences to get us through the world we live in today. There is a Toronto classical music station that has as its motto “Beautiful music for a crazy world.” Does this suggest that it’s culturally acceptable to see the world as different, even crazy? If it is “crazy,” perhaps we should not accept it-maybe we can find ways to change it. Nevertheless one could argue that “craziness” is in the eyes of the beholder.

We should not just accept that nothing is new and merely accept what is. In fact, society makes it very hard to accept everything around us. Regarding our children, just because they are testing us, should we give up and write off their behavior or do we fight back with increasing rigidity and control? It is obvious that every situation needs to be approached on its own merits. Children are certainly being more challenged in their lifestyle than years past. Yes, nothing might be new but it certainly isn’t all the same. For example, drugs have been around “forever,” but the drugs our teens (and sometimes pre-teens) are experimenting with today are without question more potent and laced with more serious chemicals. Sexuality in the media has reached new proportions from even a mere few years ago. The amount and degree of violence accessible to our youth today is at a dangerous level for their own well being, much less their relationship with others in society. Technological advancements have only begun, but even at the level it is accessible to youth today is mind-boggling. Kids today can communicate faster, further and without restrictions with a mere push of a button. Their availability to good and dangerously bad is at their finger tips.

We could spend an entire article on the changes in child-parent relationships over recent years. The concept is certainly not new, but it seems that the problems between parents and children and the level of disrespect and challenges are at an all time high. I have met with families for over thirty-seven years and I continue to be amazed at many of the stories and situations I hear. True, the stories are not new, but the contents and specifics are often of a more challenging nature.

So, if “there is nothing new under the sun,” does that mean that everything is meaningless? Of course not! Every challenge of today is a new challenge. History is to be learned from. What we did, saw and experienced yesterday are lessons for the present and the future. Every situation should be seen as a learning experience. No matter how challenging and difficult the situation is we can look to the past to learn how to address the current problem. In everything old there remains some new. With this in mind, hopefully, we will meet the many increasing challenges of our time and ensure a successful future.

Mr. Schild is the Executive Director of Regesh Family and Child Services in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Regesh runs many programs helping families and youth dealing with personal and family issues in their lives. He is currently open to speaking engagements. He can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or eschild@regesh.com. Visit www.regesh.com. See our second website specific to our enhanced anger management clinic at www.regeshangerclinic.com

Spending and Investing

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Francine has been coming to therapy for about a month. Her parents brought her due to problems and conflicts she was experiencing boat home, school and in the community. Like many teens, Francine did not see the value of therapy and felt the problems were only her parents’ issues. Besides, if she needed to talk to anyone, she would speak with her friends.

I asked Francine why she was coming to therapy. She said because her parents wanted her to. I found this very telling because many disenfranchised and at-risk or defiant youth would just not come – often using all kinds of expletives to tell the parents why they refuse to come. Francine was different. Thought she didn’t want to be here, she still came “for her parents.” This was certainly a “door” to further open in her therapy.

Many clients coming for therapy are self-referrals. That is, they recognize a problem and seek help for what is causing them difficulties in their daily functioning. However, many of my referrals are from third parties. That is, referred by a school, employer, the courts, lawyers or parents.

So, what should you do if the client really doesn’t want to be in therapy or is unable or refuses to see the merits of counseling? I know colleagues who refuse to accept these referrals. Either the client “buys” into the therapy by taking responsibility or they will not see them. Personally, I have a problem with this approach. There is a residential treatment program here in Toronto which will not accept a youth unless he or she is willing to voluntarily go into the program. However, for many of these young people, if they were capable of making that decision for their own best interest, they would not need the program.

So, what should a therapist do with clients like Francine? Most of us, if not all of us, have built in resistance to that which we find uncomfortable. If I don’t like doing something, I will either procrastinate or avoid the situation entirely. Let’s be honest – most of us do not want to talk about things that are confronting us, bothering us or painful for us. It’s only if we really trust or know that it will help, that we are willing to go down that road.

This reminds me of two stories: The first story is of a little boy about eight or nine who has a terrible sore throat. You know, one of those where you can’t even swallow without feeling like you’re swallowing razor blades. He went crying to his mother, who rushed him to an emergency walk-in clinic. When the doctor looked into his throat, he said it was infected and needed immediate treatment. That meant an injection, as oral medication would take took long exclaimed that the infection needed immediate treatment. He felt oral medication wouldn’t be effective quickly enough. As the doctor injected him, the little boy cried out in pain. As the mother and son were leaving, the son was heard crying, “I came in with my throat hurting so much and now my throat and arm are hurting so much”. We’ll return to this story.

The second story is of a little girl with a terrible toothache at the back of the upper left side of her mouth. She goes crying to her mother, who immediately takes her to an emergency dental clinic. The dentist seats her in the chair and begins his examination on the lower right side, proceeds to the upper right and carefully moves to the lower left side. So far the scared little girl is thinking that this isn’t too bad. Finally the dentist proceeds to the upper left side and touches the infected tooth. The child screams in pain.

What is the moral of these two stories? There is a common theme to them and I would like for you to stop reading for a minute to think this through. What is the moral of the stories and what does this moral have to do with going to therapy?

Sometimes in order to feel better what we do may cause more pain at the beginning. The extra pain is not done out of malice, but as part of the treatment. Also, if we go into therapy and touch on the non-effective issues (sports scores, weather, etc) it won’t hurt, but we also will not be dealing with the problem areas. In therapy, sometimes it might initially hurt more to talk about the problems and analyze what’s happening, but in the end the pain will be much less and we will function better.

I asked Francine the following questions: What is the difference between spending and investing? At first, she had no idea what this question had to do with her therapy. However, the discussion that followed really helped her to gain perspective about her therapy sessions.

What is spending? When we spend money it is to purchase something that we will have for a limited amount of time. For example, when I buy pizza it’s with the knowledge that once I eat it, its gone. I have spent my money and am left with nothing but the fond memories of the taste. I can buy a new suit knowing that after some period of time I will either be too small or not to my taste anymore. The same is true for whatever we buy. Most purchases have a time limitation. I know this going into the purchase and that is what I want and expect.

What is an investment? When I invest in something, say a stock or bond, I do so for one primary reason. I hope, and plan, to end up with more than I put in. This does not always materialize, but my attitude, my intent, is to leave with more than I put in. The probability is that the more I put into the planning and research, the better my investment and the more I will walk away with.

So, have you figured out the relationship in spending and investing with therapy? Did you figure out what Francine discovered in our therapy sessions?

What you get out of therapy depends on your intent or attitude going in. If I go into therapy, or even an individual session, with the plan that I will spend time with my therapist or I am spending time in the session, the probability is that you will walk out with very little, if anything, to gain from it. I spent my time, the time is up and now I leave (probably forgetting all or much of any discoveries I made). That’s because when I spend I don’t expect a long-term benefit or return on my time. On the other hand, if I invest in the time I am with my therapist, I expect to leave with more than I came in with. I expect my knowledge to grow and pay dividends. Speaking of dividends, I tell my clients that I don’t want to pay dividends once or twice a year, but rather I try to pay dividends every session. Those dividends are insights, good feelings, knowledge and a sense that we are one step closer to the big pay off.

I share this with you hoping that if you are looking to improve your life, to get more our of it and to function on a higher level, you will remember the importance of investing your time and energy as you search for the meanings of your life in whatever means you chose.

Mr. Schild is the Executive Director of Regesh Family and Child Services in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Regesh runs many programs helping families and youth dealing with personal and family issues in their lives. He is currently open to speaking engagements. He can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or eschild@regesh.com. Visit www.regesh.com. See our second website specific to our enhanced anger management clinic at www.regeshangerclinic.com.

De-escalating Crises at Home

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Mr. and Mrs. S. came into the office with their ten-year-old daughter, Sharon. They were very distraught and had numerous complaints about Sharon’s behaviors. Not only was she having problems academically and behaviorally in school, but they also complained that every time they asked Sharon to do something at home it became a major altercation. They felt they were living from one crisis to the next. It seemed the more problems she was having in school, the more the problems she had at home. They had identified a direct relationship between the two. Their question to me was how to avoid such crises.

Family disruptions and its associated anger issues due to a child’s behaviors is a common cause for referrals to Regesh Family and Child Services. Likewise, I find myself giving more and more presentations to parent groups on how to de-escalate crises in the home. I could never understand why parenting is not a mandatory course in every high school. Also, why don’t we find more support groups for parents, even for those not experiencing problems, but more for preventative measures? I have the questions, but not the answers.

For conflict resolution in the home, let’s first agree that conflicts in families are inevitable. Second, parents who come to talk about their children’s behavior often talk in generalities and surprisingly have difficulties being specific about the disruptive behaviors they would like to correct. It seems when we are emotionally involved and stressed, the problem behaviors congeal into one big “headache.” For example, we often use a general term that may mean a different thing to different people. By “stealing,” do we mean taking pennies off the dresser or taking merchandise from a store without paying for it? By being late for curfew, do we mean consistently or randomly? Is it fifteen minutes late or hours late? By saying the child is irresponsible, what are we referring to? Is he or she not admitting to their transgressions or not being on time? Without clearly identifying and understanding the problem, one cannot work on a resolution. Rather, the issue remains an emotional problem which is difficult to resolve.

Once we realize that we need to be specific in identifying problem behaviors, it helps to analyze the situation. For example, is the particular behavior typical of a certain developmental stage? When does the behavior occur? Why might children in general behave this way or why might this particular child behave this way? Is this a new behavior or one we have seen before?

One common question I ask myself is whether the behavior of the child (or even adults) is one of an emotionally disturbed person or is the behavior emotionally disturbing? The first is that of a person where a mental health problem is influencing the behavior, while the later is where the person is causing mental stress to another person. Often in school or home the child is causing emotional stress to the parent or teacher and is thus emotionally disturbing the other person. The child is causing havoc for reasons other than having mental health issues. On the other hand, it might be stressful to the parent or teacher because the child is not in their control.

Often we describe a child as “out of control.” Another question to ask is whether the child is really out of control or just misbehaving and not following directions. That is, whose control is the child out of? Is he out of control of the adult who is asking him to do something, meaning he’s not following their direction, or is the child out of his own control and perhaps having a temper tantrum? If it’s the latter, and he’s having a temper tantrum, he cannot stop himself at that moment. In determining what to do, we must understand this behavior very clearly.

When analyzing a situation with respect to your own children, ask yourself the following questions:

Is the child able or capable of processing the situation with either a parent or third party?
Is the problem behavior dangerous? What is the danger? To whom is the danger? Does this behavior, when it occurs, need an immediate response or can we process the situation with the child?

What are the long-term consequences of this behavior or our reactions/responses to the behavior?
Why does this behavior bother me? Is it disturbed or disturbing? Is the problem my problem or the child’s? This is a much more difficult question than it appears. Does the behavior push only my buttons? In other words, would others agree that the behavior is disturbing to them also?
Is it part of normal development?

So the question remains, how do we engage our children for better cooperation? Here are some helpful means of achieving this goal:

Describe what you see as the problem

When parents describe the problem, it gives the children a chance to tell themselves what to do. This also assures that both of you are identifying the same problem. This is an important first step. Continue attempting to agree on exactly what the problem is, as there might be differences in the way the two of you perceive things. For example, is the problem the teen came in late from curfew or “my parents are just in a bad mood?” One is breaking a rule while the other is a problem with a person. The key is to keep a calm voice and demeanor when doing this exercise.

Give information

Information is a lot easier to take then accusations. When given information, kids can usually figure out for themselves what to do. Ask the child what he/she thinks should be the resolution and praise them for their effort. Sometimes information quickly turns to accusations and name-calling. Of course, this becomes provocative and leads to more conflict. We soon forget the original disagreement and now concentrate on the new problem.

Say it with a word

Less is more effective. Kids dislike hearing lectures. The old parenting program called 1-2-3- Magic is so successful because it reduces the amount of words and lecturing to a minimum. The more words, the more there is to fight about. Keep it simple!

Talk about your feelings

Kids need to hear that their parents’ have feelings. We don’t have to protect them from this. In fact, it encourages them to use their words and to talk about how they are feeling and what’s bothering them. On the other hand, when parents get overly emotional with their feelings, it often frightens the child who feels they have to protect themselves or the parent. It’s important to be genuine, but not hurtful.

Write a note

Sometimes it’s easier to read a note than to be told something. Compliments can also be shared in notes. Note writing avoids heavy emotional reactions. I’ve seen this strategy work over and over again. It’s amazing what a “thank you” note will do for relationship building between a parent and child. I once worked with a family where, after tremendous strife one day between a father and his daughter, the father bought a rose and just placed it on his daughter’s pillow without any card or lecture. She got the message that he still loved her and the relationship was on its way.

Of course, this is only the beginning of building better relationships in a family, by developing good conflict resolution strategies. Many books and articles have been written on the topic. What are YOU doing to de-escalate crises in your family when they arise? You can e-mail me at eschild@regesh.com to share your strategies and thoughts on this topic. I will share your ideas and strategies with our readers.

Mr. Schild is the Executive Director of Regesh Family and Child Services in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Regesh runs many programs helping families and youth dealing with personal and family issues in their lives. He is currently open to speaking engagements. He can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or eschild@regesh.com. Visit www.regesh.com. See our second website specific to our enhanced anger management clinic at www.regeshangerclinic.com

Oh, So Angry (Part IV)

Monday, March 29th, 2010

This is the fourth and final part on my series on anger, apersonal control and anger management. I believe there are several major beliefs one needs to appreciate when it comes to understanding anger, angry people and controlling anger and other emotions – let’s call then the “secrets of anger.” An important definition to remember before we discuss these secrets is that when something happens that causes us to have strong emotions, the thing happening is referred to as a trigger.

The “secrets of anger” are:

1. Things don’t make you angry; your thoughts do. This is a basic belief in the journey towards anger management. The main idea here is that our brain is working at all times. Some of our thoughts are on a conscious level – meaning we are fully aware of those thoughts – and some of our thoughts are on a sub-conscious level – meaning we are not aware of them but they are there and continuously affect our feelings and behaviors. When something happens to us the brain immediately transfers thoughts about that situation – whether we are aware of the thoughts or not. It will become critical to understand that these thoughts cause the feelings and actions, not the trigger. I will explain this further below.

2. There is more than one way to look at the world. You never know what the other person can see unless you ask. Our perceptions are what we think we are seeing, hearing, feeling, etc. Often those perceptions are not the same for everyone. You and I can look at two men who are extremely angry at each other and perceive the situation in two different ways. From your perspective, you might think the two men are ready to fight each other while I might see them standing in front of an acting school and know that these two actors often practice their skits outside. The only way to know what is true is by checking out the situation and basing our response on what we learn. Many misconceptions could be avoided in this way.

3. Most of the time anger will not help you. It may even stop you from getting what you want. This should actually read that anger will never help you. Look back, in an honest way and try to find a situation when anger helped you get what you wanted. It might initially seem that way, but in the final evaluation it wasn’t the anger that helped, rather in many cases it lead to bigger problems.

4. Thoughts that make you angry nearly always contain “thinking mistakes.” Correcting those mistakes will reduce your anger. This becomes obvious when you understand the points made above. When the trigger and misperceptions lead to mistakes in our thinking, which leads to negative thoughts, we cannot have positive feelings.

5. In the end, your anger is caused by you believing that someone is acting unfairly or that some event isn’t fair. By definition, when we have external anger, meaning another person is involved in the trigger we will have feelings of victimization. Think about the times you have become angry. You felt someone did something unfair or unjust to you, took something of yours, said something unfair to you or did something that made you feel like a victim.

6. “Getting even” almost never gets you what you want. It generally makes people want to get back at you. Revenge and retaliation simply means you have been sucked into someone else’s anger circle – and the circle continues without anyone feeling like a winner. It is only when one person can stop the circle that control happens and that person becomes proud and more confident in being able to control their emotions.

7. Frustration results from being let down. If you change your expectations you’ll be less frustrated. The definition of frustration is when I expect something to happen and then it doesn’t happen as I thought it would. Frustration is often a precursor to anger. In fact, anger is often a secondary emotion, meaning that there is another factor or emotion leading to it. If I expect someone to be on time and that person is never on time, my reaction is often to be angry at that person. However, if I realize (and tell myself) that the person is always late and this is out of my control and has nothing to do with me, I have changed my expectation and thus greatly reduced my anger at that person.

8. You can never ever change other people — only yourself. This is a critical reality. I once had a client who when told this responded, “this is what I’m paying you for – that is, to change me and make me less angry”. I explained to her that I cannot change her, she would have to do that herself. I could walk the walk with her, teach her theories, skills and strategies, but in the end, she would be changing herself. In so doing, the changes become more real and more valuable to the client.

9. If you believe you can walk away — you probably can. This is not necessarily to be taken literally. We cannot always walk away from an altercation, even if we know it would be the best for us. However, in our minds and in our thoughts, we can use more positive thinking to move away from the situation and move on in more positive ways.

In successful anger management, one must understand that some of what we have always done or the ways we have always thought need to be relearned so that we can approach situations, and our anger, differently. Knowledge is power – the power to make better decisions about ourselves and how we behave in various circumstances and towards those around us.

There is a sequence that we must understand in order to have the power to change the uncontrolled anger to controlled anger. It goes like this:

a. First there is a trigger when something unpleasant happens. That is, either an external or internal trigger pushes our “buttons.”

Now the series of reactions start.

b. Thoughts occur in the brain. We evaluate and think negative thoughts – about the other person, his ideas or thoughts – or we might evaluate and judge ourselves negatively.

c. The thoughts lead to feelings (anger in this case). We feel the way we think. This includes the emotions of being hurt, attacked, jealous, scared, angry, etc. This is critical to understand – we feel the way we think. It’s not the trigger that causes the anger but the thoughts that follow in our mind, consciously or unconsciously.

d. The final phase of the reaction is the behavior. This is how we act out our anger. We could run, fight, withdraw, attack, cry, take revenge, pout or yell or any other means of showing our anger.

e. Finally, after the series of reactions, we have the effect or the negative effects that escalate our anger. It is even possible for this effect to start the cycle over and act as the new trigger to repeat the sequence of uncontrolled anger.

It is only by changing our thought processes that we can change the uncontrolled anger sequence to a positive, controlled anger sequence. That would cause the negative thoughts, leading to negative feelings leading to negative behaviors, to change to positive thoughts leading to more positive feelings which, in turn, results in more positive actions or behaviors.

What is a puppet? It’s something that doesn’t think for itself, move by itself, have any control over its environment, present or future, and relies on someone else for everything. My question to people who are out of personal control of their emotions is simply, “are you a puppet?”

When someone else causes you to lose control, they have succeeded in drawing you into their anger circle – and you are now in their control. I know that most of us want to control our own destinies. We don’t want to relinquish our control to anyone else. However, until we learn to manage our anger, have personal control over our emotions, we are at the beck and call of the other person. Is that what you want for yourself or your loved ones?

Mr. Schild is the Executive Director of Regesh Family and Child Services in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Regesh runs many programs helping families and youth dealing with personal and family issues in their lives. He is currently open to speaking engagements. He can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or eschild@regesh.com. Visit www.regesh.com.

Oh, So Angry (Part III)

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

In continuing our discussion on anger management, I would like to share some basic beliefs that one must understand in their journey to anger management (which I also referred to as personal control). As we have previously discussed, anger control is directly related to self-esteem and confidence. That is, the better the self-esteem, the more capable the person will be in controlling emotions. Also, related to this is the concept we refer to as “shame.”

Most kids and teens can stand up to normal and temporary bad feelings about themselves. That kind of shame certainly hurts, but it will soon disappear. Good shame gives every kid (and adults too) a message you need to hear. But for kids who live with too much shame, the bad feelings never seem to go away, no matter what they do. If a child listens to negativity all the time, she or he might do something terrible, or just give up in misery. This kind of shame just seems too painful to stand.

Feeling shame and feeling guilt can really be confusing for a person. So let me tell you about the difference. Guilt is when someone feels that they have done something wrong (like stealing money from your parent’s wallet – that would be the feeling you would get). Shame is when you feel you ARE something wrong (like you just feel badly about yourself, who you are, how you look, how you act or feel). Shame is a feeling everyone feels sometimes and it can be healthy or unhealthy. Healthy shame is normal, lasts a short time and gives you a message that helps you to balance your thinking and behaviour. Unhealthy shame lasts too long and feels too powerful and extreme, so it doesn’t help make you feel balanced in your thinking and behaviour. If a kid has been shamed (made to feel badly about himself) too strongly or too often, the feeling of being bad doesn’t ever seem to go away. That is unhealthy shame!

In Part II of this series, I wrote about the anger circle. As noted in that part, “If one is perceived as angry, amazingly the other person automatically responds back angrily”. As I said, “we don’t know, but it’s the way we are. This is important because the anger circle is a reaction that takes on a life of its own. It grows and the reaction goes faster and faster until someone has the strength and skill to stop it. Uncontrolled and growing on its own, anger leads to troubles with often dangerous consequences and never resolves a problem”. In order to control the anger circle, one must first understand the difference between a reaction and a response. This is very important in the journey of personal control. One must understand that a reaction is when someone does something in an impulsive or spontaneous manner, while a response is when you stop to think about the situation. After discussing this with a ten year old, he said to me, “Oh, I understand; when I respond I put my brain into gear”. I think he got it.

In order to have good control over anger, the individual must understand what I refer to as the six steps to good anger management. In normal situations where there is an altercation, the situation happens very quickly and often leads to a reaction based on what the person perceives as happening. In order to slow the situation down, one needs to learn to respond to the situation rather than react to it. Over the next few parts of this series, I will help my readers understand what I mean by this. The six steps to good anger management need to be internalized because there is rarely an opportunity for one to take a lot of time for these steps. However, as my clients learn these steps, they soon become second nature to them and happen almost spontaneously. The six steps are:

Identify the situation? Will everyone agree what the situation is? Would everyone agree with this?

2. Who is involved in the situation? It’s usually more than just the other person and me. In fact, onlookers are also involved when altercations happen. They can either encourage further conflict or be instrumental in ending an altercation.

3. Why does this situation bother me? This is the most critical of the six steps as I go from merely describing what the other person did to howI believe it is causing my anger. That is, why do I believe this situation is making me angry? This is a very difficult step and takes some help and practice to achieve. Usually when I ask the client this question, he or she repeats the altercation and almost always tells me what the other person did. I have to persist to ask why the situation bothers “you” rather than what the other person did.

4. Options for resolving the situation? What are some of the possible resolutions to this situation? Why would one option be better than another? What would be required to choose that option?

Choosing the best option to resolve the situation: What processing tools are needed to decide which option is best for the situation? Would one option be better for you but another option better for someone else involved? How do you know that you made the best choice?

Action plan to resolve the situation: Decide the most efficient and effective way to implement your option and put an action plan into place.

In Part IV of this series I will share some important “secrets” with you about anger. When you understand these secrets, you will understand the nature of anger and angry people.

Edwin Schild is the Executive Director of Regesh Family and Child Services in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Regesh runs many programs helping families and youth dealing with personal and family issues in their lives. He is currently open to speaking engagements and train-the train workshops. He can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or eschild@regesh.com. Visit www.regesh.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/oh-so-angry-part-iii/2010/03/17/

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