Timing is vital

Clock, photo by Henning Buchholz, Bremen, Germany, high priorityWhen good intentions become failures, then our timing could be out of sinc. Timing is vital in any plan of action, even for simple discussions. How often do we begin to say something, feeling confident and enthusiastic, and then the whole situation deteriorates into struggling in emotional quicksand? The more we struggle the worst it becomes and we wonder how it happened? Perhaps we didn’t consider whether it was appropriate to bring the matter up, no matter how simple it seemed. Perhaps we didn’t consider whether the other person was in the mood to deal with the matter. Perhaps we didn’t consider how capable we were at that point to express the matter appropriately. Or a combination of all of these things. When we pause and plan how to express ourselves, especially taking into consideration how right the timing is, then the interaction has more of a chance of being successful.

Stephanie had learnt from a young age
not to jump into the emotional deep end!
her father had a volatile personality
whether he was drunk or not, and so
before she spoke about anything delicate to anyone
she’d ask “are you free to speak for a moment?”
this usually prepared the other person
and it spared her unnecessary hurt!
how easy would it be if it were protocol for us
to first ask this question, just as we
automatically say “please” and “thank you”,
checking that the timing is right, could
protect us from abusive personalities
whilst respecting each others availability to
be fully present in a discussion

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Let’s talk

Talking, photo by Rakesh Vaghela, Leicester, United Kingdom,  conflict resolutionPoor communication is the No. 1 problem area in relationships. As long as people are prepared to talk about their feelings, needs, wants and give feedback about what they’ve understood the other person has said, then conflict can be transformed into negotiations for solutions. As people develop the art of expressing themselves appropriately they also discover that it is beneficial to the sender as well as the receiver of the message. Another important tip is that if the message is not being understood clearly then it is up to the person sending the message to rephrase it. Communicating effectively creates inner peace for all parties concerned in the interaction.

I was feeling uncomfortable about something
and decided to mention it to him
halfway through he became defensive
I felt anxious so I relaxed my breathing
and then started again “I mustn’t have been
clear in what I said so I’ll start again…”
changing how I expressed my thoughts
in so doing I felt calm again
then a more appropriate message came out
he too became more relaxed and from his reply it
was apparent? that he understood my point
although we did not agree
we agreed to disagree and
that was good enough for me
so our friendship strengthened

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Role models

Dad's Shoulder, photo by Joseph Zlomek, Pottstown, United States, loving parentSome people have had abusive parents as role models. Others have had one parent functional and the other dysfunctional. Unfortunately, there are those who have been abused and become abusers, mainly because they experienced how powerful induced fear was. The promising thing is that as we grow most of us learn to appreciate the healthy role models and mimic them in adulthood.

Nina was surprised that her mother’s abusive behaviour
hadn’t made her an emotional cripple, but remembered
that her father was a gentle, loving parent and
whenever she was tempted by her mother’s words
to believe that she was ugly and worthless
Nina would recall her father’s unconditional love
which gave her the confidence to make healthy choices
at times it took a lot of work to raise her self esteem
because her mother’s words would creep into
Nina’s thoughts unexpectedly, however
that was short lived as she developed the skills
to diffuse such thoughts by sending them
off into the universe in imaginary balloons

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Male influence in the family

Walking the trunk, photo by Janet Burgess, Geneva, Switzerland,  paternal  guidanceAs a family therapist and as a woman, I am pleased to see the growing nurturing role of men in family relationships. A man nowadays does more than provide financial security and play with his children. Usually he takes more of an interest in the child’s choices in life and is more supportive of their achievements, apart from sport. A man is not ashamed to take on a more nurturing role which was once only attributable to a woman. Likewise, a woman has more of an active role in what was once considered only that of a man’s, so the sharing of responsibilities is both effective and welcomed for the progress of humanity. Therefore, male influence in the family can provide a more balanced foundation for childrearing.

he remembered that as a child his father was
emotionally unavailable to him
sure, he played with him and showed some
interest in his son’s sporting activities but
if they were lesser talents than that of his father’s
then the criticism and insults were extreme
what’s more his father did not show pride in his son’s
academic and chess playing achievements
fortunately, it can be said that the son is
a better father, more responsible and caring
and this sometimes happens in opposition to the
inappropriate behaviour of a dysfunctional parent

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Codependence or addiction?

Paper people, photo by Brian S, Jakarta, Indonesia, friend networkI’ve been asked “which comes first codependence or addiction?”. As a therapist I speak professionally and from personal experience as a recovering codependent, as well as a food and nicotine addict in recovery. A codependent can be either a victim or a perpetrator of dysfunctional behaviour and as a result addictions manifest in an effort to self medicate the disturbing feelings. There’s a difference between giving service to others and becoming a martyr for their sake, which is also codependence. A recovering codependent is someone who has identified their condition and admitted it; staying vigilant about it; being a part of a recovery program; and giving service to maintain their recovery and that of others, in a loving fellowship. This recovery also involves being abstinent from addictive behaviours.

Pia Mellody (Facing Codependence), who is
a leader in the codependence recovery field
spoke on her recovery from codependence and addictions
her honesty moved me because society can scoff at
people being transparent about their shortcomings
and how they’ve taken the journey to recovery
this could be because the majority of people are
afflicted by codependence and addictive behaviours
so it’s easier to scoff than to take action
until they reach their rock bottom and only then
they become willing to find sanity and serenity
in a loving fellowship committed to recovery

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Feelings of Deprivation

All you need is, photo by Sam LeVan, Philadelphia, United States, best therapyParents and teachers have the important role of setting limits for children. However, some people forget to be loving and are too strict in this role. This causes feelings of deprivation in children which influence them negatively all their lives. Deprivation is one of the basic symptoms of addiction. Addicted people try to feed the feelings of deprivation by rewarding themselves to excess. This leads to lack of self discipline and they are compelled to keep rewarding themselves to their own detriment. The solution is to find a method that resolves the deprivation experienced and creates feelings of love. This varies with the individual but it can be done successfully with or without therapy. Self help groups are a loving fellowship and play an important healing role in this process.

whenever I promised myself to eat healthy and avoid
what’s unhealthy for my diabetes and weight gain
all the good intentions kept failing!
overcome by the strongest feelings of deprivation
my resolve weakened which led to
eating something not on my food plan but
I remembered how I mastered my nicotine addiction with
18yrs of abstinence, freedom from chain smoking now
but that feeling of rewarding myself no matter how
short lived was connected to the amount of strictness
I experienced as a child and I was in touch with that so
when I gave in it was like rewarding the crying child inside
then I found a food plan for Carbohydrate Addicts and
my feelings of deprivation and cravings were resolved
what’s more I feel loved and normal while losing weight
my diabetes blood sugar count is lowering steadily

All you need is, photo by Sam LeVan, Philadelphia, United States, best therapy

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Touch to stay alive

Danny and Me, photo by Joe DeCarlo, Sparksville, United States,  love therapyWithout touch babies have been known to die, that’s why attachment in the early years of childhood is so important. We need touch to stay alive. To touch and be touched is the necessity of life. That’s why one of the methods of torture or punishment has been isolation, it can make a person go crazy. It is important to teach children from a young age that sulking (withdrawal) is counter-productive to having their needs and wants met. Communicating what they are feeling is vital to their own wellbeing and future relationship development.

they argued constantly
from early morning and then
when he came home from work
late into the night
sometimes they wouldn’t talk for days
sulking so badly that you could
cut the air with a knife, so to speak
I often wondered how they managed
to get through the day in such an
atmosphere of bitterness and misery
with no touching
then after 13 years they divorced
and took their dysfunctional behaviour
to their new separate relationships
which did not last long either
we need touch to stay alive
in more ways than one

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Formative years

Baby, photo by Kathryn McCallum, Orlando, United States, nurturing chilhoodWhen a child is born we have a huge responsibility to be nurturing and caring especially for its formative years because it is so vulnerable and precious. That initial treatment has long-lasting benefits. However, should those childhood experiences be traumatic and filled with abuse or neglect, then there are serious consequences to the child’s growth. Such trauma can cause low self esteem in a person, resulting in them turning to feelgoods to cope better. Such feelgoods as becoming addicted to substances or processes to fill the void inside and ease the pain.

as they cuddled their new born baby
their gentleness and love showed
I knew how long they had waited
now they planned their parenting skills
not too fussy and overprotective
nor too busy and emotionally absent
so important to get a good balance
careful not to treat the baby as a toy
make sure there is a routine so
the baby gets proper rest and yet
ensuring that limits are set early on
they knew that these are
the formative years for
good self esteem and healthy living

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Parents

Holding on tight, photo by Julie Elliott, Wichita Falls, United States, caring parentParents can improve or damage a child’s ability to relate healthily. It’s not easy to bring up children. First, our own self esteem needs to be well developed to cope with their phases of transition and testing the limits. Our own moods and behaviour are also mirrored by them and this is sometimes not a pleasant experience, especially when we are in denial about our own behaviour. On the positive side, when children grown up relatively well adjusted and happy, their parents can take the credit for a job well done.

yesterday, my father died 44 years ago
I was 18 years old and his nurturing but firm
parenting skills left me well prepared for Life
thank goodness because
my mother’s behaviour towards me
left me somewhat confused
when she walked out I was 8 years old
and from then on he was both my
father and mother for the next 10 years
creating a safe environment where I learnt much
from his way of thinking and used that method
in the childrearing practices for my own children
also in the way I relate with my grandchildren
this has rippled out to my work as a family therapist
all this from a gentle man with a sense of humour
who valued being a caring parent
I remember him well

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