Archive for September, 2010

We tend to discount so many of our daily interactions as if they do not matter to anyone. We also take for granted that the small acts of kindness we see and do are not that important and that no one really sees them. Most of our lives are made up of small acts. Will these small acts have a “domino effect” or will these cumulative acts change me and those close to me in some subtle way? We don’t really know the answers to these questions. Whether our acts matter or don’t is not important in the long haul of life. Yet, we are called to do them anyway….because in the end we believe that they will have meaning!
If you don’t believe me, then just watch the recently acclaimed movie: “Remember Me.”

On Becoming a Man

September 22, 2010
posted by Admin

        How do I know when I can finally call myself a man?  Is it when I have reached maturity in my physical development?  Is it when I have completed my education or can earn my own living?  Does driving an expensive car or having a big house make me a man?  Or perhaps becoming a man has to do with getting married or having my own children.

        Signs of manhood can be confusing.  Are these symbols of power simply a kind of “reality test” that I have made it in this world as a fully-mature adult male?  It is true that these signs of growth mean something, but maybe they don’t mean what I think I want them to mean.  Exactly, what does it mean to “become a man?”  I believe I would like a definition that psychologically and spiritually satisfies me – a definition that explains my desire to grapple with the meaning of this difficult question.

          In my search for the meaning to becoming a man, I studied my relationship with my father.  One day I realized that my father didn’t have all the answers!  He wasn’t smarter, kinder or more skilled than me.  I had put him on a pedestal and thought he could do no wrong!  But, one day, I looked at him and spotted jealousy towards me.  My father wasn’t the man that I thought he was!  I believed that he would always be there to support me.

         I stole this disappointment and used it to take a hard look at myself.   If my father would not take care of me, I would be alone.  I also realized that I didn’t want to feel my deep sadness and loneliness in standing on my own.  In standing alone, I was able to make a commitment to myself and stand in my own integrity.   In letting go of my false hopes for love and protection from my father, I became my own man and defined “manhood”, for myself…my own creed so to speak.  So I offer to you, my understanding of what it means to become a man.

 If I feel that I have to solicit the approval of someone else in order to feel safe and loved, then I will not feel like a man.

If I have to work hard to acquire material goods or a higher position in my company, then I will not feel like a man.

If I live with ongoing self doubt when I make decisions or waffle before I commit to a course of action then I will not feel like a man.

If I betray my own deepest wishes in order to please someone that I look up to, than I will not feel like a man.

If I lie because it is easier than telling the truth, than I will not experience myself as a man.

If I live by my fears, rather than by my passion, than I will feel like a trembling boy, which is hardly a man.

If I avoid my own pain by running away from myself, than I will not see myself as a man, but rather as a frightened child.

If I avoid loving with all my heart and giving everything I have to be happy, than I will not see myself as a man, but rather feel like a disappointed adolescent.

If I show timidity when I should be sticking up for myself than I will feel like a coward, which is clearly not manly.

 Becoming a man is a decision to live a life of integrity in everything I do.

 Jed R.

Surviving the College Application Process

September 16, 2010
posted by Admin

So, you have made it to the start of your kid’s senior year!  Kudos to you and your family!  Think of it!  You made it past the separation worries of Kindergarten,  past the cyber-bullying years of middle school, past private parties and driving permits and licenses (maybe…. hopefully) and you have dealt with your guilt or denial around putting a young driver on our commonly shared crazy roadways.  Just as you are about to pat yourself on the back and fully take in your success in this parenting adventure, you realize that you have to get on your kid’s back and have him/her fill out the application to the “safety school” of his/her choice.  Or do you?  The truth is that if you graduated from college, this happened 20 – 25 -30 years ago!  College admissions offices consider that time period to be the “dark ages.”  So, How am I supposed to help my kid?  Let’s discuss options from the parent’s point of view!

First option:  I could do nothing!  Don’t get involved!  Look, my kid goes to a very good school, some guidance couselor should be able to help him or her.    Don’t  they write their essays in their English classes anyway?  Once, his friends start bragging about their name colleges that they are going to then, my son/daughter will get his/her bum in gear!  Besides, let his mother, grandparent, coach get on his/her back….i just want to be the nice father, mother that my kid seeks out!

Second Option:  Let’s see, starting October 1, I have 76 days to pick schools, complete all the apps, schlepp to two or three schools for a quick visit, (mostly to let others know, that I know my stuff), and get a couple of essays started!  I am certain that Jan and Greg will let me start this for them.  Meanwhile, this leaves them free to still volunteer at the shelter, stay on the debate and track team, and get the grades they need to get (not to mention study for SAT’s and those crazy advanced college placement tests.)  Senior year is really what colleges look at, anyway.  It reveals the most recent objective test of their readiness to take on college courses.

Third Option:  How about we scrap both of these positions.  Let’s ask the question how can I support my kid through this grueling, yet highly productive year! 

  • Encourage your child!  Let him/her know that you believe in /his/her ability!
  • Acknowledge when he/she does something right!  Don’t wait until the entire app is completed.  Praise them along the way in the little steps!
  • If they ask for help, then help them where they think they need help.  Not where you think they need help.
  • Get them with a college  specialist who will help them to sit down and develop a timetable to complete the necessary paperwork.
  • College application time for your Senior kid is a process.  This is a year when a kid matures a great deal.  I have found when one works in cooperation with this maturation process, everyone benefits.  And you might still have a relationship with your kid by them time he/she goes to college.
  • Consider that your child needs an extra year to work or go to a special school to mature.  This may take a great deal of pressure off of him/her, you and your entire family.   
  • Last but definitely not least,  send your kid to me or someone like me who will get him to look at the mistakes he/she is making by delaying or skipping the process. 
  • Parent’s:  Good Luck and by the way, letting go of your kid when you send him off to college isn’t easy either!   Best of Luck, Dr.Pat            

Investing in the Long-term for your child!

September 10, 2010
posted by Admin

One of my least favorite jobs as a therapist is making decisions that are forced upon me to make.   So this type of conversation almost always happens over the phone and it goes something like this…

“Hello, Dr. Pat, my kid, Peter Pan or Wendy has an opportunity to see a ball game or concert and it conflicts with school, dentist appointment, or even your appointment.  What should I do?  I know that he/she is too young, the evening too late, the event too mature for my kid….but I just can’t deprive them of this opportunity.”

Okay, what would you say to this parent?  So would you focus on the event, would you focus on the child’s needs or would you focus on the parent’s need?  I cannot tell you how many times, I have been tempted to tell the parent to just give me the tickets, reschedule the kid’s appointment and go have a good time at the too late, too mature event!  (Only kidding!) So if you are following this closely and have courage, the obvious answer is always NO!

 “NO!  Wendy or Peter Pan, you cannot go to the concert, ball game, simply because I am the parent and I said so!” 

The word “NO!” is not a word that any of us want to hear.  “NO!” means that there must be a delay of gratification, which means we must wait for the re-occurrence of the next great non-conflictual event.  We do not want to wait!  We want it now and in addition, we want perfect gratification!

I fully realize that this is not a satisfactory answer to a parent who is hoping that he/she will not have to disappoint their child. 

The truth is:   “Mom, Dad you are not your child.  YOU had your fun as a child, now it is your child’s turn.  Go have your own fun!”

The second truth is:  Most children, and your child is not the exception, most children need to be told “No!” so that they can remain on their normal, predictable schedule that allows them predictable times to eat and sleep!  Without a schedule a child is LOST!  If you do NOT want your child to be LOST!  or cranky from exhaustion, or thrown off their schedule for days on end, good for you, you value long term character traits over short term pleasures that come and go with the change of weather.  You will be an excellent parent because you are more concerned about your child 15-20 years from now and not their impending possible temper tantrum now!

Why do men not turn to psychotherapy for help?

September 1, 2010
posted by Admin

Jed’s Beach Blog

It is one of life’s most wonderful pleasures, sitting on the beach and lazily watching people.  As I sit here, I notice those around me, particularly the men.   Not too far from me, I overhear a conversation of a balding guy on his cell phone, carrying on a business conversation.  Scanning the beach, I innocently eavesdrop on a conversation that a man is having with his wife.  He is expressing worry to her about their recent returns on their IRA.  All of sudden, right in front of me, a little tyke zooms past me, running away from his father.  He catches his son and scoops him up as the child’s screams.  The father tries to speak calmly to his kid, but brusquely hands him off to his wife.  As I witness each of these benign incidents unfold… I wonder if they see what I see….the daily stress that they are under.  As a male psychotherapist, I often ask myself why men stay away from therapy.  Do they not see the stress that they are under?  Don’t they realize that they would function better if they had the kind of professional support that psychotherapy affords them?

         Today’s man has been taught not to expose their vulnerable side.  I know for myself that as a young boy I was told to remain in control, and to suck it up and deal!  If I am not able to handle my own problems, or to rely on another, or to admit that I am scared, it may mean that I am not a real man.  Even if I entered therapy, how could I protect myself once I let my guard down?  Men are not used to or trained to allow themselves to become vulnerable in front of others.

          Unfortunately, the pessimist in me believes that many men will never seek “help” or seek it too late… after the wife has filed for divorce or they already lost their third job in a row.  The likelihood that most men will continue to remain silent and suffer alone is great!  As I watch the waves roll in, I reflect on the fact that, regardless of their upbringing… men have a choice.  They can live a life of silent suffering or they can take a chance and explore their soul.  Which would you choose?