What Values Do You And Your Partner Share?

How would you describe your home–by the way it looks or the values you bring to it? What are your values? What values do you and your partner share? Have you given it much thought? Perhaps you ought to. When I hear stories of people berating their spouses, I wonder if those people who do the chewing out ever stopped to ask themselves what their values are. Do they value the idea of respect? Do they value the idea of generosity of heart? Do they know what it is? A Person With A Generous Heart Doesn’t Give Things, He Gives People A Chance. He has patience; he assumes the best intentions on the other person’s part; he has belief in the goodness of the other. Are you such a person? Is your spouse such a person? Your children? Well, if you all are, then how come there are arguments? Blaming? Criticizing? A person with a generous heart who then goes and yells could not have that generous heart. It is superficial. He might be generous with the checkbook, but not in his heart. Since a generous heart means giving the other person the benefit of the doubt, there would never be something to yell about. Give some thought to the values you show in the way you act, not merely the values you say you have. Those are who you really are. Are you who you want to...

12 Steps: Step 4 is Not About Beating Yourself Up

Step 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Never, ever kick yourself in the rear for your past. This is NOT how Steps 4-8 of the 12 Steps should be done. Looking at what you did–or were not able to do–admitting it, asking for help from your Higher Power, making amends are all beautiful and important. Doing that will take the chip off your shoulder. But that does NOT mean beating yourself up mentally for your mistakes. FIRST accept the fact that YOU WERE ABUSED. You are working on correcting all that came out of that mess. Beating yourself up more only adds to the problem and gets you no where. It’s Like The Day Of Atonement So how should one make a searching and fearless moral inventory? How do you do it without beating yourself up? That is an excellent question. It takes me back quite a few years. When I was growing up, my parents and I would go to synagogue for Yom Kippur, the Day of Attonement in the Jewish calendar. There were quite a few times when you literally had to beat your chest as you recited all your sins! That really made me feel bad. I didn’t want to feel bad and yet, there I was, confronted with all my sins and I just felt awful. Mind you, I was a child. No one explained to me how to do this right! It took me years to learn how to do it without feeling horrible. And here is the secret: Recognizing mistakes is not an indictment against your whole Self. That’s...

12 Steps: Step 1 – Control

Step 1.We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable. Acknowledging weakness is very scary. It means letting go of the one thing that may have kept us alive–substances. These steps pertain also to any other addiction whether it be gambling, narcotics, work, shopping, sex. The addiction seemed to have been the only way to go on in the face of great, unimaginable pain. Now you are faced with a realization: To whatever degree it worked, it has also wreaked havoc with your life. What to do? Do you want, finally, finally, to be in charge of your life? The beginning is the acknlwledgement that addiction was only a temporary solution and not a great one. It required an unimaginable cost. Consider the paradox: It is possible to gain control over your own life by acknowledging a lack of control over alcohol. But it means letting go… And what does powerlessness really mean anyway? Alcohol is one of the great cop-outs for not facing our pain. If we use substances–or other addictions–we have a dandy excuse for not being in control of our lives. The moment we admit we are not in control when we drink, we are forced to take control when we don’t drink. That is what’s so scary. We are scared of so many things: of feeling of failing in life of being rejected once the veil of alcohol is removed of sharing secrets of betraying our abusers of discovering we don’t know who we are So alcohol serves as a pretty good excuse to stay stuck. But it doesn’t have...

12 Steps: Step 6 – Remove the Obstacles

Step 6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. Well, I’m going to be iconoclastic. I don’t think that the things we do that hurt others are necessarily defects of character. So, I might be parting ways with the terminology here–but not with the spirit. Let’s begin by defining defect of character as distinct from defective behavior. The difference between character and behavior is the total unwillingness to change. In fact, it goes deeper. It is the total unwillingness to recognize the need for change. So if John beats his wife, does it only when he’s drunk, and doesn’t feel bad the next day when he’s sober, that would be a defect of character. If he feels bad but blames her for getting him upset, that’s bad. But I still see hope for him because he is capable of a little compassion. Perpetrators in jail for violence can learn to feel compassion. What Is A Defect Of Character? Of course, I will admit, the job is easier because they are in jail so they have some motivation to work on themselves and get out sooner. But then again, jail does have some tough customers. I work with tough customers all the time myself and I really believe that once they begin to be in touch with their own pain, they are capable of feeling the pain of others. Therefore, I’m not convinced that even the diehards have character defects. Sure, there is a small minority of serial killers out there. I would agree that they have some serious defects of character. Yes, anyone who...

Substance Abuse & Family Abuse–They’re Connected

Substance abuse and addictions do not occur in a vacuum. It is not merely the result of vulnerable kids becoming involved with the wrong crowd. If only it were that simple. In fact, substance abuse is more a symptom of the real problem than “the” problem. The real problem falls in one of three categories: abuse, neglect, or failure to discipline. Abuse Physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual abuse will inevitably lead to later scars. Even people who cope well and rise above it are forever hurt by their horrible experiences. For some individuals, the best way to blot out the pain is substance abuse. When chemicals anesthetize emotions, a person can go on with life. There isn’t much quality to that life, but it is bearable. Neglect Neglect does not mean leaving a child without food-although that too happens. Neglect may simply mean being too busy to have formed a relationship with one’s child. My hunch is that Noelle Bush’s history involves this category at least [She is the daughter of former Governor of Florida, caught with drugs]. As children grow, parents become models for them of how to function in the world. Children also discover who they themselves are through the feedback they get from their parents. When the small girl constantly picks out the frilly clothes, her parents may say, “She’s all girl.” Those remarks help that little girl define her personality. Parents who ignore their children not only fail to give this feedback that is vital to their personality development, but instead give a most undesirable message: You are not important enough for us to pay...

ADD? You Must Consider These 6 Things

ADD is a difference in “wiring” of the brain from those of non-ADD people which is frequently distinguished by lack of ability to set a pattern which can be followed in the future (such as deciding where to always place keys so you don’t lose them and then repeating that sequence of steps) lack of conscious awareness of behavior or habits (which results in not noticing yourself place those keys down, so that later you cannot retrace your steps to find them) lack of ability to concentrate or focus on tasks ADHD may have the added features of impulsiveness (such as blurting out whatever comes to mind without thinking about possible consequences like hurting someone else’s feelings or looking ridiculous oneself) lots of extra energy getting dissipated through activities that are either goal-directed (like sports) or not (like pacing). skinniness due to this expenditure of energy [in very young children] poor bowel control due to lack of control of the impulsiveness A quick look at the above lists is quite depressing, so it should be noted that these “syndromes” also contain the following highly desireable features: more energy than other people have that can be directed towards constructive tasks a way of thinking known as divergent in which one idea sprouts another and yet another–the very basis of creativity To back what I say, the following people were thought to have been ADD or ADHD: Henry Ford, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Emily Dickinson, John F. Kennedy, George Bernard Shaw, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Salvador Dali. From this description, I think my child/spouse has ADD/ADHD. How can I be...

Holistic Psychotherapy: More Than Behavior, More Than Feelings

A brief history: Psychotherapy in this century started with Freud. He developed a whole way of figuring out what people were thinking and feeling as a way to reach their unconscious. Practitioners who work this way are called psychoanalysts. This is pretty clever but there were people who took exception to that. They believed that it really isn’t fair for one person to tell another what is going on in his or her mind. They felt that behavior is all that you need to work on in order to help people. They are called behaviorists. Other people thought looking at behavior left out the world of feelings and experience. Clinicians aiming at feelings are called gestalt therapists and experiential therapists. But there were those who liked the idea of focusing on ideas, being rational and reasonable. Those people are called cognitive therapists. Some people noticed that it would make more sense to combine all of the above since people, after all, aren’t compartmentalized. Therapists taking this view look at people from the perspective of their unconscious, their behavior, their feelings, and their thoughts. What’s more, they like looking at people in the context of their relationships too. These are called systemic therapists. Because relationships are important, they also work with couples and families. I am a systemic therapist because I like to look at the whole individual whether adult or child. But I also work with couples and families. A Holistic Approach   Having been in the field of psychotherapy for 30 years, I think all these approaches make sense and I have come to the conclusion that each...

12 Steps: Step 3 – Choices

Step 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. If you thought this one would be simple and obvious, you have another guess coming. This step is about nothing less than the meaning of life: Why are we here? What is our purpose? If there is free will, how do you reconcile that with turning our will over to God? And what does any of this have to do with happiness? Why did the Step-writers distinguish our Will from our Lives? What does any of it have to do with my substance abuse problem or my recovery? Obviously, I can only answer from my own perspective, so bear in mind that this is one person’s view. Attend meetings, read, talk intensively to your sponsor and get other views. My view will draw heavily from Jewish philosophy. I think we are here to make this world a better place. Don’t snicker! I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Why should I be the one to make it a better place when my abuser(s) sure didn’t?” You have an argument there, I’ll give you. But imagine if everyone had that argument. Then the world would have no redeeming values and we would have been swallowed up in a dark pit a long time ago. There would have been no Mother Teresa or Malala Yousafzai. As messed up as the world seems to be, clearly, there are some good people in it. So my question to you is: Do you want to be one of them? In your heart,...

12 Steps: Step 2 – How to Get God to Help You Recover

Step 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Well, if you look through this site, you’ll know that I believe in God, so if you don’t agree with that outlook, you’ll have to figure out how to work out this one without that construct. Just hear me out for a moment: When people have been subjected to terrible pain, it is logical and natural to say, “There can’t be a God in the universe.” After all, if there is a God, how in the world can He or She allow such things to happen? I sure can’t answer that question–no one can. We are all limited by our humanness. Humans, after all, only have 5 senses. We can’t see the future; we really can’t understand the past the way people who lived it did; we can’t see too far away even with good eyesight; we can’t understand other cultures too well; we can’t even understand our family, for goodness sakes. Don’t Try To Understand God So, yeah, we are intensely limited. Naturally, we can’t understand the concept of God, let alone how a God that is supposed to be good can cause pain. Many times I’ve talked to Holocaust survivors who say they gave up on God and I don’t argue with them. Who am I to do so? The pain you suffered to get where you are now was just as great. It was your personal Holocaust. I learned, as a therapist, that if I focus on the unanswerable questions, I spin my head into a pretzel and lose more...
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