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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Ontario Canada’

Oh, So Angry (Part II)

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

In Part I of this four-part series, I introduced you to Aaron and his extreme anger. I ended that article with, “I must say that as I was describing this theory, Aaron’s mouth dropped open, his eyes grew wide and tears formed in his eyes as he moved closer in his chair. The only thing he could say was, “How did you know?” With that comment, Aaron and I started a remarkable relationship. With all the counselors he had been to over the years, Aaron said that no one really understood him. Here was the angry young man who didn’t want to be there, fully engaged and ready to work, ready to share his pain, ready to begin a trusting relationship.”

As promised, I’d like to share “the rest of the story,” which is extraordinary. The hour went very fast as Aaron and I got to know each other and as this remarkable young man became, for the first time, fully engaged in only the first session. When told the time was up and we would meet with his parents, he quickly and harshly said, “They need to buy me ice cream.” As we were leaving the office we began speaking of our favorite ice cream flavors. When we were with his parents again, I asked Aaron’s father if he wanted to put the fee on his credit card as he had done the last session. Aaron roughly spoke up asking how much the fee was. I told Aaron the fee was a lot and his father would take care of it. At that moment Aaron, who had not initially wanted to come to the session, reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of twenty-dollar bills. I knew better than to ask where the money came from. Aaron peeled off $100 and handed it to me. Aaron, who refused to come to the first session and really did not want to be at the second session, was now insisting that he pay me. In all my years of practicing, I had never seen this before. As Aaron and his father started to argue about the fee, I told Aaron I would take his money – but only on one condition – that when he and I finished our course of treatment together, he would take the money back as his own (I won’t take the time to explain this to my readers at this time). Of course, Aaron was shocked and answered “no.” I said I would not take his money and gave it all back to him. Then I asked him for $20, gave it to his father and suggested that they go out for ice cream together. The next day I received an amazing email from the father asking what I had done to their son. He was pleasant for the rest of the night (very unusual) and spoke of how much he enjoyed the session. Aaron had truly engaged with me.

I have been seeing Aaron in therapy for about eight months. I have truly enjoyed working with this young man. He has worked hard and has made a remarkable change in his angry behavior. In fact, two months ago I asked Aaron to join me as a co-leader in a new anger management group. Needless to say, he has taken great pride in this role and has been an asset to the group.

In my anger management program, referred to as personal control management, we often talk about the source of anger, where we get our strategies for dealing with anger and the relationship between anger and self-esteem. In fact, we recognize that the higher the self-esteem, the higher the ability to control one’s anger. Conversely, we know that the lower the self-esteem the less ability one has to control one’s emotions. We also discuss self-esteem and confidence as factors in one’s ability to control emotions. Anger can be internal, meaning no other person is involved or external when someone else is involved. External anger originates when one feels victimized by someone else. That is, someone has done something to me that feels “unfair,” taken something or says something unjust to me. In any case, a feeling of victimization results.

Anger is an emotion, like so many others. We tell our clients that one need not rid themselves of any emotion but rather they must learn to control it. A basic belief that one must understand is what I refer to as the “anger circle” – an important concept to understand before learning to control one’s anger. Amazingly, anger is extremely contagious. In fact, look around you. Watch couples, children, and parents with children or teenagers. If one is perceived as being angry, the person you are with will automatically respond back with anger. We don’t know why, 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.

A good intellectual survey for a researcher or student would be to ask people how, if given the opportunity, they would best like to feel. You could get all kinds of answers, including “loved, happy, rich, important” and so on. However, if you would tell your respondents that the number one feeling is “like a winner”, they would all agree, if they are honest. Everyone wants to feel like they are a winner. It’s what we all strive for – not to get caught up in someone else’s anger circle and to have the skills to be in control of oneself, is to feel like a winner.

There are several concrete beliefs one needs to understand when it comes to controlling emotions. Those beliefs we refer to as “secrets of anger,” though we talk about sharing these “secrets” with others. I will share these with my readers in Part III of this series.

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 and train-the train workshops. He can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or eschild@regesh.com. Visit www.regesh.com.

Oh, So Angry (Part I)

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Dr. and Mrs. Schwartz came into the office looking very tired, stressed, despondent and unsure of themselves. They came without Aaron because he had refused to come to the appointment. He claimed that at 15 he could decide for himself if, and when, he would come to appointments about his life. They began by describing an extraordinarily angry young man.

Dealing with the effects of anger and anger management has become a key component of much of my work with youth and adults over the past few years. In fact, approximately three years ago we engaged a researcher to study various anger management theories and existing courses to better understand the components of anger, its effects on the individual and those he/she comes into contact with. Subsequent to that, we have developed a unique anger management program for youth and adults that has proven to be very successful and “user friendly”. Over the next few articles, I will be sharing some of our ideas of issues of anger with my readers. But first, let me share the story of Aaron with you.

Aaron was adopted almost at birth. His anger problems were described as starting very early with increasing issues around the age of seven. Problems continued escalating around the age of twelve and continued with major problems at the time of he was referred to us. As noted, I deal with angry individuals all the time, but at this point Aaron was described as one of the angriest I had heard about. In fact, his parents described him as having constant daily flare-ups, threatening to kill them and burn down the house. They noted that Aaron had a sleep disorder and would more easily “blow up” when hungry, though he often refused to eat. When Aaron would go into “fits of rage”, he would clench his fists, grind his teeth, make demands or give orders and bully others, usually his mother, and make threats as well as make holes in the walls of the family home. When the referral was first made, it was after Aaron had trashed the house, made serious threats against family members and threatened to burn down the home. He was placed in jail overnight. Aaron’s also had significant anger issues in school and with others in their community. His parents knew that Aaron needed immediate help and wanted to avoid having him placed in a group home, but they were unsure how to get him to accept the help he needed.

With prior preparation and encouragement, Aaron did come to the next session. When I went out to meet the family in the reception area, Aaron had his back turned away from me and was reading, or pretending to read, a poster on the wall of the reception area. In no way did he want to be there or make eye contact with me. I avoided any confrontation or issues of power struggling by encouraging Aaron to continue reading the poster and join us when he finished. I was pleased that within a minute or two he joined us in the therapy room. As we started this first session with Aaron included, one could easily see how volatile Aaron was. His father’s cell phone vibrated several times and he became more and more agitated each time. Finally, it was one ring too many and Aaron tried to grab his father’s phone which was on the table. Actually both father and son reached for it at the same time, but his father retrieved it. Aaron started to use fowl language to his father relating how angry the buzzing phone made him. It certainly was not the right time to explore why this bothered him so much. With some guidance from me, Aaron was able to calm down and I suggested that we continue with our “getting to know you” questions for a few more minutes and then we would ask his parents to wait in the reception area while the two of us spoke in private. Aaron pleasantly surprised me and agreed with this plan.

Now, as the famous saying goes, you have to hear the “rest of the story”. After a few moments of ensuring Aaron that our time alone was confidential and talking about some not too threatening points, Aaron was able and willing to engage in discussing some issues with me. A couple of things Aaron said in the course of our discussion made me realize that this very angry young man was also a good-hearted, though very hurt, individual. I quickly began sensing something special about Aaron and in our discussion related that to him. In fact, in spite of the major troubling behaviours at home with his parents, primarily his mother, he was able to tell me that they are “good people”.

I tend to be very vocal in my sessions and I tell my clients that is because as I form ideas or concepts, I believe in sharing them. I let them know that I don’t have to be right, but when I share my thoughts, I give the client the opportunity to respond and, in turn, engage in more discussions. In fact, I encourage them to correct me if they think I am way off base.

As the time was moving quickly and I wanted to engage Aaron as much as possible in this first interview, I validated whatever I could and let him know I understood what he was saying. I also shared with him how hurt I thought he was and how his own anger might frighten him at times. Knowing that Aaron had been previously diagnosed with ADHD and a learning disability, I took a big chance in saying to Aaron that I thought I could describe the happenings of his life. I told him at age four to five he began getting frustrated because he couldn’t seem to keep up with the other kids and he learned the feeling of embarrassment. By seven, other kids started noticing this and began making fun of him. About the same time his parents and teachers started feeling that he was lazy and told him so. By nine he was aware of his own anger growing inside him and began to bully other kids, like they had been doing to him. By eleven he was pretty sure of his inadequacies and knew that everybody thought he was a failure. He was getting into more trouble at home and school and was acting out his anger, which, in turn, got him into more trouble and gave him even more doubts about himself. By thirteen he viewed himself as not only a failure, but also a troublemaker and took pride in how he could intimidate others. This continued until around fourteen when drugs began taking a role in his life. By fifteen, the police were involved and there he was in my office.

I must say that as I was describing this, Aaron’s mouth dropped open, his eyes grew wide and tears formed as he moved closer in his chair. The only thing he could say was, “How did you know?” With that, Aaron and I started a remarkable relationship. With all the counselors he had been to over the years, Aaron said that no one really understood him. Here was the angry young man who didn’t want to be there, fully engaged and ready to work, ready to share his pain, ready to begin a trusting relationship.

You won’t believe how this session ended. Aaron’s story is fascinating and develops into a positive experience in understanding anger management. Stay tune for Part 2, as I share what happened at the end of the session and how Aaron’s (and my) life changed.

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.

Childhood Resilience

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Why is it that one youth involved in a trauma or difficult situation seems to bounce right back with little effect on his daily functioning while another youth seems to take forever to get back to his usual self?

Childhood is often seen as a time for freedom, getting what you want and having fun in a carefree time. However, youth alone offers no shield against the emotional hurts and traumas many children face. The uncertainties that are part of growing up, and childhood itself can be anything but carefree. Children can be asked to deal with problems ranging from adapting to a new classroom to bullying by classmates or even abuse at home. The ability to thrive despite these challenges arises from the skills of resilience.

The good news is that resilience can be learned. Much of our counseling takes into effect that youth (and adults) often react to the various situations which causes them anxiety, stress, frustration and anger. Resilience training is often a part of that counseling. Resilience is the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress. However, just because our children have developed resilience, does not mean they won’t experience difficulties and distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common when we have suffered a major trauma or personal loss, or even when we hear of someone else’s loss or trauma.

As adults, we can develop skills of resilience and teach them to our children. These skills involve behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned over time. Here are ten tips for building resilience in children and teens I would like to share with you:

Tip 1: Make connections: Teach your child how to make friends, to be empathetic and feel another’s pain. Encourage your child to be a friend, in order to get friends. Build a strong family network to support your child through his or her inevitable disappointments and hurts. At school, watch to make sure that one child is not being isolated. Connecting with people provides social support and strengthens resilience. Some find comfort in connecting through prayer.

Tip 2: Help your child by having him or her help others: Children who may feel helpless can be empowered by helping others. Engage your child in age-appropriate volunteer work, or ask for assistance yourself with some task that he or she can master. At school, brainstorm with children about ways they can help others.

Tip 3: Maintain a daily routine: Sticking to a routine can be comforting to children, especially the younger ones who crave structure in their lives. Encourage your child to develop his or her own routines.

Tip 4: Take a break: While it is important to stick to routines, endlessly worrying can be counter-productive. Teach your child how to focus on something besides what’s worrying him. Be aware of what your child is exposed to that can be troubling, whether it be news, the Internet, or overheard conversations. Make sure your child takes a break from those things that he finds troubling. Although schools are being held accountable for performance on standardized tests, build in unstructured time during the school day to allow children to be creative.

Tip 5: Teach your child self-care: Set agood example and teach your child the importance of making time to eat properly, exercise and rest. Make sure your child has time to have fun, and that every moment of his or her life has been scheduled to the last second. Downtime is very important. Caring for oneself and even having fun will help your child stay balanced and better deal with stressful times.

Tip 6: Move toward your goals: Teach your child to set reasonable goals and then to move toward them one step at a time. Moving toward that goal – even if it’s a tiny step – and receiving praise for doing so will focus your child on what he or she has accomplished rather than on what hasn’t been accomplished. This can help build the resilience necessary to move forward in the face of challenges. At school, break down large assignments into small, achievable goals for younger children. For older children, acknowledge accomplishments on the way to larger goals.

Tip 7: Nurture a positive self-view: Help your child remember ways that he or she has successfully handled hardships in the past and then help him or her understand that these past challenges help build strength to handle future challenges. Help your child learn to trust him or herself to solve problems and make appropriate decisions. Teach your child to see the humor in life, and how to laugh at one’s self. At school, help children see how their individual accomplishments contribute to the well being of the class as a whole.

Tip 8: Keep things in perspective and maintain a hopeful outlook: Even when your child is facing very painful events, help him or look at the situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Even when children are too young to consider a long-term look on their own, they can be taught to see that there is a future beyond the current situation and that the future can be good. An optimistic and positive outlook enables your child to see the good things in life and can keep going even in the hardest times. In school, use history to show that life moves on after bad events.

Tip 9: Look for opportunities for self-discovery: Tough times are often when children learn the most about themselves. Help your child take a look at how whatever he or she is facing can show “what he or she is made of.” At school, consider leading discussions of what each student has learned after facing down a tough situation.

Tip 10: Accept that change is part of living: Change can often be scary for children and teens. Help your child see that change is part of life and new goals can replace ones that have become unattainable. In school, point out how students have changed as they moved up in grade levels and discuss how that change has had an impact on them.

Developing resilience is a personal journey and you should use your knowledge of your own children to guide them. An approach to building resilience that works for you or for one particular child, might not work for another. If your child seems stuck or overwhelmed and unable to use the tips listed above, you may want to consider talking to a psychologist or other mental health professional. Turning to someone for guidance may help your child strengthen his or her resilience and persevere during times of stress or trauma.

Finally, we need to remember – children live what they learn and learn what they live. As adults, we need resilience skills for ourselves and in order to teach them. Let’s learn how to be good role models for our children and everyone else we come into contact with.

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.

The Past, The Present, The Future: From Generation To Generation

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

I don’t remember how I met him! Yet, he was there.

“Time waits for no man” is an old saying, though I’m not sure where it originated. Other such sayings like, “time flies by too quickly” or “the older you get, the faster time flies by,” also contain meaningful messages. For me, I can’t believe how quickly the days and years go by. When I think about it, I realize how we must make the very most of each day to accomplish what is important while we still have the opportunity.

A few months back, I read in The Jewish Press of the death of Dr. Morris Mandel. With his passing, I would like to make a confession. As many of you know from a previous article, I arrived in New York in 1964 from Macon, Georgia. I knew the bare minimum about yiddishkeit and came to New York to go to a yeshiva for Ba’alei Teshuvah that year. In those days, Ba’alei Teshuvah were few and far between and to the best of my knowledge, Yeshiva Hachel HaTorah, right in the midst of Harlem, was the only yeshiva taking boys with little to no background who wanted to know more about their Yiddishkeit.

I really don’t remember how I met him, but Dr. Mandel became a supporter, a mentor, a caring person to me. He helped me get through some rough days after coming to New York on my own. He helped me understand that my search for my unknown religious beliefs was the right thing – at least for me. I wonder how I found out that he loved green grapes. I used to travel from Manhattan to Brooklyn to visit him and stop along the way in a fruit store to buy him grapes. Then, we would sit, eat grapes and talk about so many things. He knew how to listen, share ideas, tell stories and had a way of making one’s ideas sound right. I fondly remember the article in The Jewish Press that he wrote about me and my search for Yiddishkeit. He never identified me by name but I remember someone in Washington Heights, where I was then living, asking if the article was about me. Likewise, it is with fond memories that I remember his invitation to a Shabbos at the Pioneer Country Club in the Catskills where he would go every summer. After that Shabbos he arranged for me to have a job at the Pioneer the next summer. It was there that I started dating the woman who would become my wife and six weeks later became engaged.

I remember how very important his wife was to him. I am told that things were just not the same for him after losing her. I sent my condolences to his family.

* * * * * * * *

How else do we understand the passing of time? How do we grow and teach our children over time? What is the phenomenon of improving with maturity all about? In my anger management courses, I often talk about how our past affects the present, which sets the stage for our future. Without any form of intervention, or calamities, our future can often be understood by our past. Another way of saying this is, “we are today because of whom we have been.” When I ask people if they can tell me about the first computer, I receive all kinds of intellectual answers. The fact is our brains were the first “computers” because everything we have experienced has been stored there and it has input and output. “We are today because of who we have been” simply means that our likes, feelings and decisions are all affected by our lifetime of experiences, thoughts and happenings.

If this can be readily accepted, then we can better understand why our relationships with our children, even at very early ages, are so critical. Our past, present and future affects each generation. How we develop our relationships with our children and partners depends on our past experiences. What we teach our children today, their experiences, their happiness and hurt, will all have a direct influence on their future. It’s true that we sometimes see our children taking very different directions in their lives than we had in mind for them when they were younger. This sometimes leads to great heartache, while at other times great pride. Nevertheless, the directions they take, as foreign as it might be to us as their parents, have been influenced by something within their past.

Every day the tefillah of Shema Yisroel is said by Jews around the world. It is usually the first things we teach our children and often the last thing on our lips before returning to the “true world” after death. It has no time barriers, no limits. Its importance and stability for the Jewish people is obvious in the frequency with which it is said on a daily basis. In fact we learn that in the first line of the Shema, each time we say Hashem’s name, we should think that He was, He is and He will always be. There is no element of time, just constancy of existence.

We parents all have expectations and hopes for our children. Those hopes are partially based on who we are but also on who we want our children to develop into. The definition of frustration is not getting what we hope, or plan, for. Needless to say, parents often have frustrations regarding their children. Sometimes the best way to deal with such frustrations is to reassess our expectations and adjust them accordingly. That doesn’t mean we necessarily have to lower the bar, rather we must try to better understand the context of those expectations and life events affecting them.

When it comes to understanding the affects of the past on the present and future, we would be negligent not to discuss these effects on the development of the child. One area of development that is often overlooked is the long-term affect of a child’s self esteem. Where does self esteem come from? Is self esteem stagnant or does it fluctuate? What causes changes in our confidence and competency? Self esteem is developed by the people and events around us. The development of a child’s self esteem is as critical as his developmental milestones. Self esteem is not the same as one’s confidence, although they are closely related. Self esteem is how I feel about my self, my sense of self worth. Confidence is how well I believe I can do or accomplish something. I can be very confident in one area of my life and not in another. For example, I have high confidence in my ability to help others in therapy, though little to no confidence that I could go mountain climbing. Variances in confidence is normal in individuals. Variances in self esteem are more event or time related. On the other hand, one could have consistent high, or low, self esteem. However, most people’s self esteem fluctuates with events. How well a person bounces back to a healthy level is usually more dependent on past events and experiences.

As the High Holiday season approaches and we have time to spend with our children and grandchildren, let’s be aware of the influence we have on them. What I do today will influence not just my life, but also the life of my children and grandchildren and their children for generations to come.

Have a happy and healthy New Year. I encourage my readers to share with me their thoughts and stories related to my articles.

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.

Now I Know Why I Survived

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Flip Wilson was a famous comedian and television actor who once used the line, “The Devil made me do it.” At the time it was funny, though pretty soon completely overused. In hindsight, the quote can be a pretty accurate description of the misguidance of our youth, as well as many adults. Could this be another means of blaming the yetzer ha’ra for our misdeeds? Can we really get away with anything if it’s not our fault or was an accident? What about the concept of “responsibility,” how do we teach that to our children?

Before reading further, seriously try to answer these few questions:

Why do car makers make cars that have 200 miles per hour on the odometer and can go in excess of 150 miles per hour when the speed limit is usually not more than 65 mph?

Why do car makers brand their cars with speed and pretty young women?

Why do little boys want to be firefighters or policemen?

Why do males have more accidents as a result of carelessness and risk taking?

The list can go on, but there is a pattern! Have you devised your own theory?

If, G-d forbid, someone injures another person by accident, is he or she responsible? If in anger, I say something very hurtful to someone and then apologize for what I said, am I responsible for the hurtful words – even if I am really sorry for what I said?

Where does asking forgiveness fit into rectifying a wrongful act? We know that in Judaism we can ask Hashem, as well as our fellow man, for forgiveness. Teshuvah is acknowledging our wrongdoing, asking for forgiveness truly from the heart, and then never repeating the transgression again.

Is forgiveness the same for everyone? That is, does my role in society, my authority or status, have any bearing on my asking for, and receiving, forgiveness? What about the age of the person committing the transgression and his/her relation to those he/she is asking forgiveness from?

A couple of years ago, a 16-year-old client in one of my anger management courses brought up this question of “asking forgiveness” to the group. In addition to other issues he was struggling with, a very good friend of his had recently been murdered by an ex-boyfriend. To make matters worse, the ex-boyfriend had told my client that what he was going to do and my client did nothing about it. As is often the case, someone may say, “I’m going to kill her” and we never think they really mean to do what they say.

In our group discussion, we were talking about “forgiving” and who could, and who could not, forgive and under what conditions. The conversation turned to what really is meant by forgiveness. Over the year or so since this discussion, I have asked that question many times – What is meant by forgiving someone. I have heard many definitions of what it means to forgive, but never one that most people can accept wholeheartedly.

Each day we must make decision, yet it seems we never received sufficient training in making good choices and accepting responsibility for the choices we make. Each of us knows that it is easier to blame others for our poor choices. Heaven forbid we take a look in the mirror and acknowledge the role we played. Sometimes, we find ourselves in situations and we wonder how we got there, thinking it was not what we wanted to happen. Nevertheless, are we not still responsible for our choices, good or bad? On the other hand, in lieu of accepting responsibility some people will take on a victim stance. They allow the event(s) to control their emotions and actions and thus fail to ever accept ownership and responsibility.

Taking responsibility means accepting our emotions in any given situation. Angel S., a victim of childhood abuse who became a volunteer who works with abuse victims says, “If we project hatred, hatred is what we get in return. If we feel deceived, we will be deceived. If we feel hurt, we will continue to hurt ourselves. It’s a never-ending circle of emotional projection that can only be changed when we accept full responsibility for the part we played. Denial comes when our childish side moves to the front. The wounded, inner child part of us is always the victim. It has no control over emotional reaction and this is something only time and experience can bring. Wisdom comes from learning to accept the roles we place ourselves in and how those roles shape our very being.”

Let me go back to my earlier simple questions. What all of these questions have in common is temptation. The world is full of temptations and on a consistent basis our ability to deal with them is tested. Addiction counselors will tell you that this is the foundation of their profession. Whether it’s through drugs, alcohol, sex, the Internet or any other addiction, temptations can take over a person’s sense of self. How we handle temptations is what makes the difference between an individual who is a reliable and responsible person or one who is unable to deal with his emotions and sense of self. Self-control issues and means of improving one’s personal control will be left to another article. Meanwhile, how do we handle our own choices and temptations? How do we deal with situations whereby others, those who are dear to us, those in authority, or those who mentor us, give free reign to their temptations and “cross the line”?

Community leaders must recognize that once society puts them on a pedestal, once they are in a position of trust where others turn to them for consultation, halachic decisions or guidance, they by de facto are in a position whereby their “line” is higher and different than others. Not only are they judged differently, but also their level of responsibility is on a higher plain. Their temptations are like ours, but their responsiveness to the temptations must be held in higher esteem, as is the person. Once that line is crossed, we can no longer maintain the same level of trust and respect, especially if the person takes on the role of the victim rather than one of true responsibility. Adults need to know and accept this role in the lives of children and followers.

I have a saying hanging in my office, “Worry less that your children are not listening to you but more that they are watching you.” We as leaders, parents and teachers must take this saying to heart. Our children learn more from watching us than we realize. Leaders cannot continue saying, “Do what I say and not as I do.” We must be consistent and say and do what we want our others to learn from us. Without this form of teaching, we lose respect and our children, or followers, gain little from us.

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 can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or eschild@regesh.com. Visit www.regesh.com.

Why Do You Hurt Yourself

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

I recently saw a sign that read: “There are a million reasons for abuse, but not a single excuse.”

Sharon* (name has been changed) came into my office last week after being a client for almost a year. Over the past few weeks, she has been working towards disclosing a “secret.” Finally, through an established trusting relationship, Sharon was ready to tell me her “secret.” She is 16 years old and has had a 19-year-old boyfriend for almost a year. She was finally able to disclose to me how abusive this young man has been to her. Having told me of various forms of abuse, she also stated how angry she is at him, while at the same time she says that she cares for him.

Sharon described the abusive relationship with this young man, telling me many of the terrible things he had done to her, while, at the same time, attempting to defend his actions. She did this by putting herself down with a perception that she is not worthy of more and better than what she got. Why do people get themselves into such relationships where they see themselves as the cause, and even accept responsibility, for the perpetrator’s behaviors?

What makes an abusive relationship? Let’s remember, abuse is illegal, immoral, and inhumane. Often the abuse is clouded with caring messages and visions of allure. These abusive relationships are often characterized by such behaviors as extreme jealousy, controlling, emotional withholding, rage, and verbal abuse as well as physical and sexual abuse. Such relationships often start out as happy and provide a sense of togetherness.

In most situations of abuse, the perpetrator is the male, though this is not always the case. A common feature is the over-controlling man who soon needs to know every move of his partner and gets upset with her should he not be informed. The woman often finds herself more isolated from her old friends, and on the receiving end of endless questions from her partner. Soon the partner starts losing interest in old friends and things once enjoyed.

Everyone has heard the songs about how much love can hurt. But that doesn’t mean physical harm; someone who loves you should never abuse you. Healthy relationships involve respect, trust, and consideration for the other person. Love and caring should not mean constantly worrying about the possibility of being hurt or of the end of the relationship. In the United States, it has been disclosed that one out of every 11 high school dates reports some form of physical abuse.

Abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual. Slapping, hitting, and kicking are forms of physical abuse that can occur in both romances and friendships. Emotional abuse (such as teasing, bullying and humiliating others) can be difficult to recognize because it doesn’t leave any visible scars. Threats, intimidation, putdowns and betrayal are all harmful forms of emotional abuse that can really hurt – not just during the time it’s happening, but long after, as well. As my client Sharon can testify, all these forms of abuse result in low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness. In addition, the victim often starts relating to life in a victim mode and adopts such an attitude to all life experiences.

The first step an abuse victim must take is the realization that no one deserves to be taken advantage of and no one deserves to be abused. The victim must realize it is the perpetrator who must accept total responsibility for his behavior. No matter what the victim has done, it is the perpetrator that is ultimately responsible for what he or she has done. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Those victims who cannot realize this fact must seek treatment to unlock the hidden causes of this sense of unworthiness for their own sense of dignity.

What happens to the victim who continues to see herself as such, where there is no resolution and closure with the perpetrator? Emotionally abused children often grow up to be emotionally abused teens that also grow up to be abused, and abusive, adults. Often these victims perceive themselves as hopeless, helpless and unworthy. Our society has countless professionals who work with such individuals. Such people often struggle with stress, dissolving relationships, fragmented family values and pain. There is a connection between emotional abuse and hypertension, eating disorders, ulcers, sleep disorders and countless other heath-related problems.

Research has often found a relationship between teens who are self-abusive and who have been abused in some form or another. This is a topic of its own, which I might address in this column in the future. However, briefly, self-harm has been defined as “a variety of behaviors in which an individual intentionally inflicts harm to his or her body for purposes not socially recognized or sanctioned and without suicidal intent.” In a published article by a Cornell University research program on self-injurious behaviors in adolescents and young adults, it was found in clinical populations that self-injury is strongly linked to childhood abuse, especially childhood sexual abuse.

In addition, there was evidence that earlier, more severe abuse and abuse by a family member may lead to greater dissociation and thus greater self-injury. Self-injury is also linked to eating disorders, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression and anxiety disorders. The lack of empirical research in non-clinical populations reinforces the assumption that most or all of self-injurious behaviors is a product of pre-existing disorders; however, in more recent research in general populations of adolescent and young adults, this has been challenged.

Back to my client, Sharon*, who is now heavily into serious drugs, missing many of her school classes and starting to alienate herself from her mother with whom she was so close. Sharon’s behaviors don’t just affect her. Her mother has sleepless nights, is now struggling with health issues of her own due to the aggravation and has lost much too much weight due to the stress and worry about her daughter.

Though Sharon’s parents are divorced, her father, who used to be a good place for Sharon to visit, has now been pulled into the picture in a negative manner as he has become extremely critical of her and very judgmental. This leaves Sharon feeling even more alone and more desperate, which in turn leads her to more injurious behaviors. Though she understands that she is on a very destructive path, she does not see how, nor want, to resolve the situation, as she now feels too desperate, hopeless and useless.

Not only are these clients draining on their families, they are likewise draining on the therapist who is trying, at times literally, to save a life.

We must not only worry about our teens, but our unmarried and married children as well. Self- abusive behaviors and bad relationships can sneak up when least expected. Let’s be there to be aware and supportive.

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 can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or eschild@regesh.com. Visit www.regesh.com.

Miscommunications: I Can See Clearly Now

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Sometimes our sight is blurred by the magnitude of our surroundings.  As the old saying goes, “you can’t see the forest for the trees.”  Nevertheless, this is very true.  Sometimes we don’t see the obvious because of other distractions.  In our tefillah, we ask G-d to “enlighten our eyes”.  We often miss the treasures that Hashem has given us; we take them for granted.

This time last year, I shared with my readers our simcha of my mother’s 95th birthday.  We are very fortunate that we have now celebrated her 96th special day this past week.  Baruch Hashem, she is in good health and enjoyed having the family with her for this special day.  Her birthday card collection, gifts and flowers continue to grow, as each one of them gives her a unique pleasure.

My mother is fortunate to live with my brother and his family who are superb caregivers.  Around the same time as the birthday celebrations, my brother had an eye lens replacement and was continuously amazed at how clearly he could see.  In the early 70s there was a hit song by Johnny Nash called “I Can See Clearly Now.”  This song came to my mind during our visit to my brother and mother.

Recently, my mother said that someone she has known for most of her life did not seem like the same person.  We couldn’t understand her comment and just thought it might be part of the confusion she has been experiencing the past year.  However, we found out later that this lady, in fact, has been acting differently and more forgetful.  Perhaps we just didn’t see that and yet, my mother did see more clearly than the rest of us.  I couldn’t help but think of the relevance and the connection between these two events.  Both, my mother and brother were in a position to thank G-d for a tremendous gift, life and sight.  Unfortunately, most of us take both of these miracles for granted.

One of the things we learn in Judaism is the importance of giving hakoras hatov (a sincere, deep appreciation) to Hashem (G-d) for all that He provides us – both the obvious and the not so obvious.  Everything we have and everything we experience is from Hashem.  The rosh kollel where I daven speaks about his grandmother who appreciated good health until a seemingly very minor occurrence affected her daily functioning.  One eyelid became paralyzed resulting in her not being able to do many of the normal day-to-day functions that she had grown used to.  It’s really amazing!  We tend not to think of all our normal bodily functions given to us by Hashem that we take for granted, and as such, don’t thank Him daily for these special gifts.

My brother’s eyesight was made clearer.  How about the rest of us?  Are we really seeing what’s around us, or only perceiving things through our own lens?  Since my visit I am becoming more aware of the mentioning of one’s eyes in our daily prayers.  We are told that the eyes are the gateway to the soul.  What does this mean?  We could say that one’s eyes reflect the character of a person.  We tell people to “look into my eyes” when they tell us something, as if we could determine whether or not what they are saying is the truth.  Your eyes’ movement and appearance attract constant attention. The eyelids and the surrounding muscles and skin help us to express our emotions and tell the world who we are, and how we feel.  As we age, our eyes may begin to look tired or angry.

How do we differentiate between what we “see,” believe and perceive?  How many times have we “seen” a situation only to find out later it was our perception but not the same perception others might have had.  In my anger management sessions, I teach six steps to manage your anger better.  The first step in an altercation is to “Identify the situation.”  Is the situation seen the same way by all involved, or do we perceive the situation differently according to our own involvement?

Parents, teachers and children often have conflicts because of miscommunication and perceiving situations differently.  These conflicts also occur between friends.  What one person may say can easily be misinterpreted by someone else, which in turn leads to altercations and misunderstandings.  How do you prevent or minimize such occurrences?  Often, differences that seem so big are, in fact, either very small, or a misunderstanding of the essence of what is being talked about.  Often, arguments and disagreements originate from how we see (perceive) things as well as from our communication styles, conditioning from past experiences, and personal bias or insecurity.

Here are some ways to minimize misunderstandings and create a better atmosphere for closeness and conversation.

1. Understand your differences.   Understand that men and women do communicate differently.  I often recommend to couples that they read the old, yet popular book Men are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships by Dr. John Gray.  Actually, by reading only the first part of the book you get the message that men and women are, indeed, very different, and you will learn the importance of understanding these differences in order to develop more meaningful relationships.  Differences in interpretation or communication styles don’t mean there is right and wrong, but simply that there are differences in one’s patience to understand and accommodate.  Once you are aware of these differences, you are on the way to developing more mutual communication patterns.

2. Say what you mean.  What is the real message you want to get across to the other person and how is this message being heard?  Be aware of your own thought and feelings rather than what might be the other person’s thoughts and feelings.  As the saying goes, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.”

3. Listen actively.   Effective listeners ask non-blaming, clarifying questions.  Listen to what the other person has to say without formulating an argument or opinion. Focus on the words, and ask questions to follow up if you don’t understand the first time around.

4. Eliminate personal bias.  Be aware of your own self-doubts and biases before answering others.   Be aware of what society expects and analyze how that fits into your own feelings and perceptions.    Each of us needs to be aware of our past experiences and how they affect our communication styles  and perceptions of events.

5.  Assume the best.  Often our past experiences cause us to expect the worst in situations.  Be aware of this and assume the best.  Are our perceptions of a message really the message meant for us? In Tehillim (Psalms) 119.18 King David taught, “Unveil my eyes that I may perceive wonders from your Torah.”  May each of us develop the clarity to understand what the other person is saying in order to avoid misperceptions and develop the talent to say what we mean and mean what we say.

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.  Visit www.regesh.com.  He can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or eschild@regesh.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/miscommunications-i-can-see-clearly-now/2008/12/03/

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