Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Effects of Transgenerational Patterns

Yesterday I received a frantic call from a gentleman with whom I have been consulting for a couple of months. His urgency was not for himself. Rather, it was for his twenty-something son. “Doc, I gotta get him in to see you as soon as you can schedule it.”

It seems that his son is living with a woman whose rage and violence against him are escalating drastically. For example, in one of their recent fights, she hurled a huge pot of spaghetti at him. And he woke up the next morning to find that she had stabbed a butcher knife through his pillow and cut up his clothes. The father’s alarm was certainly justified!

Since I have not yet met with the young man, I can only speculate on the contributors to violence in his relationship and his impotence to do anything about it. However, I know from the father that the older man grew up in a household where violence was the norm. And since the older man was the oldest of three, he bore the brunt of his parents’ frustration and mistrust that was expressed through rage and accusations. For example, one time when the older man was about 7 years old, his mother stabbed a fork into his forearm so far that it stood up by itself. Although not a daily occurrence the way the parents’ brawls were, instances like this were not all that rare, either.

The older man originally had sought my help to try to end his marriage to a woman who nightly gets drunk, swears at him, throws dishes at him, and berates him. In our meetings, at least a dozen times, he has shaken his head incredulously and said, “I don’t know why I married her. I can’t for the life of me figure out why I married her.” So I began probing to help him answer that question. When he began telling me his story, he was shocked and amazed when I pointed out that he had married a woman just like his mother.

Furthermore, because he had never resolved the abuse he witnessed and was the brunt of in his childhood, that pattern came down the generations to his own son. So it seemed normal somehow for him, too, to be with a violent woman.

Am I saying it is my client’s fault that his son is in this untenable situation? No. Absolutely not. But he does bear some responsibility for not having cleaned up the psychological mess his parents’ misery created in him. Unfortunately, in that both of his parents died forlorn and alone, he is unable to face his parents directly regarding his maltreatment. So it’s up to him to come to terms with his childhood traumas so his son can face and handle his own untenable situation. Then in both instances, we can see what can be done to improve their relationships or leave them.

Am I saying that the son will be unable to leave his relationship unless his dad leaves his? We’ll see. But I can tell you this much. It would be a whole lot easier for him if his dad were to lead the way.

When well-meaning people advise others to put the past in the past, this advice translates to “ignore it and hope it goes away.” However, the only way to genuinely put the past in the past is to turn towards it, face it, and resolve the feelings and thoughts surrounding it.

For those who would like some expert assistance to do just that, I am offering two weekend events to help people get unstuck in their lives and move forward unencumbered by past events, some of which have already receded into their unconscious mind. In this instance, what you don’t know will hurt you.

One will be held on May 15 and 16 in Ocala, FL, and the other in Minneapolis, MN on May 22 and 23.

The beauty of doing this work in a group is that participants will have the love and support not only of me, but also of the other group members to help each of them resolve their issues. Or at least they’ll get a darned good start at it. The primary reason that traumas go unresolved is because people assume they would have to experience it alone. The best part of working on tough issues in a group facilitated by someone with expertise is that finally, they don’t have to go it alone.

Won’t you consider please joining us? Spring is a beautiful time of year to give yourself a fresh start. Of course, if you want further information, feel free to call my toll-free number: 888-546-1580. I stand ready to help.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mental and Emotional Spring Cleaning

Spring is a time of renewal, of starting fresh. A time of looking back to move forward in some qualitatively new directions. Yet too many people take their emotional old, no longer useful “clothes” with them into summer, fall, and the next winter like last year’s parka and snow pants.

At least once a season, I go through my closets. I sort my clothes, shoes, belts and handbags into a pile to give away, a pile to take to consignment, and a pile I want to keep. You’ve guessed it. The pile that I either consign or give away is stuff that I have to face the truth about: I simply am never going to wear the stuff. Either I’ve outgrown it, (drat!), or I no longer need it or like it.
I always feel lighter, less encumbered somehow, when I have completed this arduous task, having procrastinated on it long enough.

So it is with mental and emotional spring cleaning. And yet, too few people do this. They continue to take their emotional winter clothes with them year after year, in the form of outworn defenses and no-longer-useful thought processes.
For example, people who are stuck in their lives likely are at an impasse because of a trauma that hasn’t been resolved. Or an early decision they have made as a result of an experience that they have promised themselves never to repeat. This is the best self-protection that children can come up with because they are capable only of concrete reasoning.

According to the great Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget, children aren’t capable of abstract reasoning until they are in their mid-teens. Concrete reasoning means that children are not capable of questioning their thoughts. They just unquestioningly think them. So if a child concludes that Mom and Dad got a divorce because s/he was a bad girl or bad boy, they carry that with them on an unconscious level until they are helped to raise that early decision to the level of consciousness. Then they can make a new, decision that is less damaging to their growth and development. This is a graphic example of an early decision run amuck and then corrected – spring cleaning at its best.

What lurks in the cob webs of your mind that needs to be brushed away? What hides in the dark corners that need to be faced and put to rest so you are no longer held back? What baggage is in your trunk of unhappy memories? Finding and putting these archaic experiences is essential. Otherwise, they will continue to haunt you and overshadow your ability to live the life. Then you will continue living someone else’s life, not your own.

In May, I am offering two opportunities to help you “spring clean.” The first will be on an acreage in Ocala, FL, on May 15th and 16th. The second will be held in Minneapolis, MN, at the lovely 1893 Nicollet Island Inn, on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River on May 22nd and 23rd. At each of these events, I will guide your mental and emotional spring cleaning.

For more information, visit my web site, www.drbetherickson.com. Click on Services and then Group Consultations on the left. This will allow you to access a video where I explain about the Florida Consultation Group and read specific details. The Minneapolis group will be a mirror image of the experience in Florida.

And of course, call my toll free number, 888-546-1580

Dr. Beth