05/03/2021

Bitterly Blended

Posted in Family, General, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 5:44 am by The Water Bearer

 

Ever since the Boomers discovered divorce and gave themselves permission to break their marriage vows, there’s been a steady increase of single parents and blended families. I’m not telling you anything new, and we’ve all heard plenty about the negative consequences and scary statistics that befall the children who aren’t raised in a home with both of their loving biological parents.

However, in this post I plan to share some helpful tips for parents to mitigate some of the damage.

Relationships are complex in the most stable of circumstances, and parenting is a bloody hard enough job without doing it alone or bringing more outsiders into the mix. Especially at a time in history when emotional instability is at an all time high. There certainly are occasions where parents separate amicably and continue to nurture their children with love and respect for each other long after the romance has passed. But the more common theme is one of bitterness, tension and ill will.

Whether that bitterness is between Mum and Dad, or Step-Mum and Mum or Step-Dad and Dad etc. It’s extremely toxic to children… I’ll say that again.. IT’S PSYCHOLOGICALLY TOXIC TO CHILDREN!

“looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;”
Hebrews 12:15 NKJV

I have testified many times the dire psychological impact from my own experience with this toxic formula. It happens while the parents are all consumed with their own powerful emotions, and trying to navigate each turbulent situation, so no one is really interested in how the children feel.

I tried for decades to explain my traumatic feelings to my bitter parent and yet I never felt heard or respected, safe or even loved. In response to sharing my pain, I was met with defensive justifying excusing their actions, along with all the reasons for their feelings. I was reminded of All the “acts of care and effort” they had done, as some sort of evidence that I should not feel the way I did. The message was loud and clear… Their feelings mattered and mine did not.

Is it really so hard to ask a child in your care “How do you feel and why?” Or ask “Is there anything I can do to help ease your pain?” Or owning your humanity admitting you made a mistake and say “If I could go back in time I would have done things differently” Especially as the children grow into teens and start realising the unhealthy strategies they’ve adopted to cope with their traumatic feelings.

In relationship therapy there is a simple process called “Active Listening” It goes like this… Ask “How do you feel and why?” Then paraphrase back “so what I’m hearing is….. Is that correct?” If you were correct then validation is so important “That must have been awful for you, you must have felt…. (Add in 3 or 4 similar feelings that they might have felt)” then reassure “I reassure you that from now on I will… (Your plan of action to prevent repeat)

Don’t parents think we know it all! We can even assume to know our child better than they know themselves… so instead of being heard, understood, validated and reassured when I withdrew emotionally to protect myself, I was accused of being ‘cold hearted’. Instead of asking why I stopped playing happy families and avoided close contact, I was called “ungrateful”, and instead of considering if my feelings were valid I was told I had been “brainwashed” or “coerced” by my other parent.

If you are a parent, in any style of family and you catch yourself doing any of the things listed above, allow me to be the one to knock some sense into you! If you accepted the role to care for a young person and you can’t see past your own feelings to show empathy to theirs then you are headed for a future of loneliness and drama, likely cut off from those children and their children. And you will find yourself having to badmouth those poor kids to everyone who asks “how are your kids?” as you try to shirk any blame for them cutting you out of their lives. Trust me, no one may tell you to your face, they may all sympathize and tutt and say “you poor thing, how terrible!” but underneath that they are thinking “how horrible does someone have to be to badmouth their kids? No wonder the kids don’t call or visit”. It’s not a good look… Ever!

If their unhealthy coping strategies don’t destroy them, at best those kids will end up in years of therapy paying someone to listen to their feelings cause you couldn’t manage it!

If you’ve read this and know of someone who badmouths the young people they accepted care of, either through birth, adoption or marriage, please be brave and tell them what empathy is and how to actively listen. That it requires putting their own feelings aside for a moment to be able to show compassion and support for someone else’s pain. You may just save a family and a child from becoming another statistic of God-only-knows-what!

 

 

 

 

 

23/10/2013

A Need for Tolerance

Posted in Encouragement, Family, General, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , at 5:21 pm by The Water Bearer

tolerance

Lately I have noticed that I am praying a lot for tolerance… Tolerance from others while I am at my worst, tolerance for others when I’m irritated by them, and tolerance in others when they need it.

Tolerance is defined, in the Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary as –

*Willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own.

*The ability to accept, experience, or survive something harmful or unpleasant.

“Tolerance” … This word just seems to keep popping up all over conversations lately. Or is it only around me?

For most of my “pre-therapy” life, and before my Dad began to show me a new way, I used to have very little tolerance. If I thought you were out of line I would call you on it straight away, no grace, no compassion, no self-awareness. I was young, defensive, and quite honestly, very insecure. It made me feel better about myself, if I came across faults in others. I notice this is very common practice in many people.

When my Dad taught me about grace, he made me try to find excuses for all types of behaviours which I regularly found unacceptable. He tried to get me to step out from who I am, what I know, what I think, and see any situation from another perspective. It helped me begin to give grace to others for things I would usually get annoyed at. This didn’t only help others feel more comfortable around me, it also made me feel more comfortable in situations that would usually irritate me. That’s the thing about tolerance, it works both ways. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being irritated or blindly irritating others, so this was such a blessed lesson for me.

After years of therapy and faith, I have noticed something valuable that I want to share with you….

The more I love and accept myself, the more I work on being my best self, the more tolerance I have for my imperfections, then the more I seem to create a buffer of tolerance around me.

I began to notice more and more, that the small annoying imperfections of others generally roll off my back. I no longer go about continuously and harshly judging others because I know how hard it can be to get things right all the time. Snide remarks don’t always make me feel like I must respond and put them back in their place. The criticisms of others don’t always make me defend myself by trying to make them change their mind about me. Almost like a big cushion softening the blows that would normally have me reeling in despair and reacting with aggression. Life has taught me about grace. How greatly we need it ourselves when we are at our worst. How genuinely we can give it when others are at their worst.

Having greater tolerance doesn’t mean you permit others to treat you badly or make you feel bad about yourself. It is that you are less effected by their ill-treatment or irritating behaviour. It doesn’t bother you as much as it does when your level of tolerance is low. What it does give you, is a more stable platform from which you can decide when someone’s behaviour has crossed a line, rather than reacting irrationally out of intolerance. Then you can set a boundary in place to protect yourself, before their behaviour begins to effect you in an extremely negative way.

There is only so much tolerance we can have when we are exposed to nastiness, abuse, and attack. We may tolerate these things for a period of time, but once you stand firmly on a foundation of self-acceptance and put up that boundary, you are stating to those around you that you will not tolerate being treated in a way that lacks decency.

I believe it is important for people to own their actions. Setting in place a boundary, gives you a place of protection until they are willing to own up to their mistreatment of you and repair any damage. Some will, and many won’t, but at least you won’t spend your days being in a state of irritated intolerance. You may even be able to move forward with peace…..

less friction

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray for tolerance. Help us all come to understand your grace and build up your truths in our hearts and minds. Help us accept ourselves as your wonderfully made creations, and help us increase the amount of tolerance in our lives. Let us know your instructions clearly when it is time to set up a boundary, and give us security in your strength and protection. In Yeshua’s Mighty Name, I pray.

01/08/2013

Out Of Words*

Posted in Encouragement, General, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , at 9:22 am by The Water Bearer

wordless

I never thought it could happen…… Not to me!

The first time it happened, I found I simply had nothing nice to say, everything seemed bleak and I didn’t want to drag down those around me. All my jokes, extended stories, quick comebacks, deep philosophies and laughter had left me. So rather than forcing out anything, just for the sake of speaking, I became quiet. Needless to say, everyone could tell something was wrong and hassled me relentlessly about my melancholy reservedness.

It has been many years since my deep depression, and with a lot of therapy and some big life changes, those faithful old friends ‘words’ came back with a vengeance. I sang them, I spoke them, I thought them, I wrote them, I kept them, I shared them….

“Welcome back wonderful words, how I missed you!” – I felt like ME again.

chatterbox

However, recently I have noticed moments of wordlessness appearing here and there.

I’ve forced out a few drafts of posts, but they simply don’t have that genuine passion resonating through them, so I have not been content enough to hit publish.

I haven’t touched my novel in months.

I have even found myself sitting in company, quietly, actually thinking to myself  “come on, you must have something to say, think!”.

Have you guessed? I am not a fan of uncomfortable silences!

So I ask questions, to break the silence. I hear their stories, however long or short…

Am I becoming a listener?

It is something I have prayed for many years to become better at. It’s not that I don’t listen, I hear what is being said, but perhaps I don’t let others know, or feel, that I am truly listening. Maybe I am not patient enough to allow others get it all off their chest. I always have some response to share during their stories.

Some have complained that I talk too much, I admit that much of the time I do, and in the past I have become self-condemning about it. At times I have prayed, begged, pleaded for God to SHUT MY MOUTH! Even if a change came, it did not last for long, as soon as the darkness lifted, I felt like myself again and so did my overactive mouth. I dearly hope to find the ability to be in a really good mood and yet stay quiet..but it has eluded me for all my life.

What a strange change…

Perhaps this is just another episode? The low after many weeks of manic moods and excessive mind wandering? In any case I intend to use the quiet to my advantage. To pursue growth.

Has the Lord has opened up a space for meditation while in the company of others? Something I have not often felt able to practice in the past. Really being there and not lost in a sea of my own thoughts and words.

My therapist gave me some great pointers on how to experience deep listening. He based these tips around the mantra “to be present but without self“.

The first time we practiced this, I was surprised how much I had to concentrate on what was being said while shutting down my own thought reactions, reactions that related their story back to me and my feelings about it. To only try to understand their feelings and leave mine out of it.

This is pretty tough for me, my ego is quite a self-centred bully at times. However, I found this whole thing much easier once I understood what I needed to do in order to achieve deep listening skills. It will take effort, awareness and practice, but you know me, I am always up for a challenge of self (or lack of self as the case may be) 😉

So if things have been a little quiet around here lately, now you know why…

I’m here…. I’m listening….I’m growing…

Listening

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