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Saturday, January 6, 2018

Control Freaks: Top down vs. bottom up.

My wife and I were talking about control freaks we've had in our lives.  A common refrain I've heard about controlling people is that they to try to control out of fear.  I think there is a large element of truth to that, but I don't necessarily think that all people try to control out of fear or if they do not necessarily do it all the time.  I think some people tend to be controlling because 'they can'.  That is they like the power of being able to 'control' others.  So, it occurred to me how could I differentiate the two?  What I came up with is a concept of top down vs. bottom up.  So, here is my concepts for what it is worth.

TOP DOWN Controller (Macro)
  • They may start to exhibit their controlling behavior out of fear, but ultimately when they have gained power, it is to keep or expand their power.
  • Look to control for power, to dominate others.
    • Have a greater likelihood of being a megalomaniac.
    • Often clothe their 'need' for controlling others in being interested in the welfare of others.
    • Even while expressing their concern for the welfare of others, they themselves seem to find a way to benefit nicely from their use of power.
  • Have a super-sized ego.
    • Have the sense that only they know what is best.
    • Consider themselves as great or greater than their message.  In other words, not only do I know better, but I'm also tend to be the best (or only one) to implement what I think is best for everyone.
  • The ends justify the means in many cases.  In other words, while I am not necessarily authorized to exert the power I am--and in some cases it is unethical--I am justified in exerting the power for the 'good of everyone'.  In other words, there is an element of malevolence to their attempts to control, even if they don't recognize it.
  • Control over others tends to be more global rather than situation specific.

BOTTOM UP Controller (Micro)
  • Tend to control out of fear, rather than a secret need for power.
    • If I don't do this myself it won't get done (and it may reflect poorly on me).
    • Yielding too much control can or will make me vulnerable.
  • Not necessarily addicted to generalized power.  Tend to seek control over certain people in certain circumstances. 
  • May have a certain arrogance in their area of control (I know better), but their control is as much to seek some or self-protection (or those they are charged with).
  • Would tend to have an ability to give up control in areas that they don't care too much about or where they feel reasonable secure.  

I think everyone seeks some level of control in their life.  I think it's common to see oneself as not being controlling at all, but I believe that most people exhibit a certain desire/need to control people and circumstances in their life.  In my opinion, where the need for control becomes a problem is:
  • It interferes with a healthy and respectful relationship with others around you.  That is to say there seems to be a need to step on someone's toes because a) a lack of trusting the other to do the right, proper or effective thing b) "knowing" that you can do whatever needs to be done right.
  • It results in a loss of appropriate freedom and liberty for others.

There are places in life however where control is appropriate and appropriately deferred (and placed in the hand of others):
  •  Adolescents necessarily would tend to have to earn 'control' with responsibility, ultimately deferring control or decision-making to their parents.
  • Students control to the teachers/staff in adolescences and adulthood defer a lessor degree of control to their professors.
  • Subordinates, especially as it relates to their employment, would tend to have to defer control or decision-making to their bosses.  Similar dynamic with subordinates deferring control to their leaders in the military.
But I digress, even in those cases authority is usually earned.

I don't have a big overarching conclusion to this blog.  I would say though that is important to exercise control judiciously where it is given/earned/expected, be willing to defer control where it is appropriate or helpful, and always to remember that control is as much a responsibility as a privilege.  It shouldn't be taken lightly and if if mishandled can be subject to being taken away.  That being said, I'm deferring control of the words of this blog post to my readers to be used as is beneficial in their lives.


Monday, January 1, 2018

Truth is truth regardless of who believes it...

I get the feeling that I have written about this before, but perhaps it isn't a bad thing revisiting it.  Anyway as I have indicated, I am very weary of writing blog posts which could be construed as too political.  I have my political takes and I sometimes express them in other forums and sometimes express them to people in over the phone or in-person discussions, however, I am very wary of expressing in this blog.  Politics has a way of dividing people that in many cases would willing to listen to you otherwise.  This blog has never been meant to be about politics, but instead a searching personal study on aspects of human nature and feelings, including those of addiction, codepedence and the like.  This specific post is meant to be to some extent a push-back on a culture of conventional wisdom and a realization that the truth is out there and it will be what it is regardless of how widely it is embraced or not.   We just have to be brave enough and put down our preconceived notions long enough to accept it, especially when it goes against all that we've been tough.

As a teenager I struggled with my faith.  One part of my struggle was seeing others portray themselves as pious Christians. yet from what I saw, their actions did not match their words/portrayal.  For example, I would hear other teens (and adults) express their faith publicly, but when in smaller groups or around others they'd engage in gossip/speech that differed little behaviorally from the 'secular'.  In other words, instead of setting themselves apart and leading by example, they were followers of 'worldly'.  Also, I was very awkward as a teenager and the Christian faith as I understood (and understand) it encourages us to love our neighbors and to embrace those the 'throwaways', the 'unpopular', the 'forgotten'.   More often than not, I didn't feel that I was accepted by even the "Christians" community.  Since then I've come to the understanding and acceptance that just because you have a faith doesn't mean that you are a) immune to secular influences or b) that you are fully mature in your faith (especially in the teenage years).  I was focused on their failing and how it made me feel.

A funny thing happened on the way to heaven (as I like to say).  I had an epiphany one day--on my road to Damascus.  It came in the form of a simple math equation.  Namely that 1 + 1 = 2, regardless of who does the equation or whether or not the person behaves as if it is.  In other words,

  • If you purchased two items at the dollar store, the cost will be $2.  
    • It doesn't matter if the you give the clerk $3 dollars and walk off thinking you've paid him/her the right amount.  
    • It doesn't matter whether the clerk demands $3 for $2 worth of goods.  Either way the cost is $2.  
  • Likewise, it doesn't matter if others around you who claim to be of your faith live as if they believe the articles of faith.  The faith will be true (or not true) independent of who actually shows fidelity to it.  God existence for example, is not dependent on who accepts it.
  • A bitterly cold day is bitterly cold regardless of how much you wish it were otherwise.
  • And so on...
Some things are just true because they are true.  No amount of wishing or thinking otherwise changes them.  Life is full of shades of grey, but not everything is a shade of grey.  Paradoxically, that is a form of black and white thinking. See: Sometimes black and white (either/or) thinking is good. Avoiding it can be itself black and white thinking.  Obviously in life it is important not to be too rigid in your thinking that you miss the obvious that is outside of your viewpoint.   However, it is just as important to be willing to accept truths and stick to them regardless of how much support you have in expressing or holding them.

So, let's all have civil discussions on issues of the day, but be willing to listen to a point of view that is contrary to yours.  However, if the truth of one of your viewpoints is utterly clear and provable, stick to your guns, do not be bullied into questioning, disowning or disposing of that viewpoint. 

Thoughts for a new year...
-- Rich

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Accepting a Serving of Pie = Providing a Serving of Love

Christmas at my mom's house was always interesting.  She'd get gifts she thought were cool (even if we didn't need them or it wasn't our cup of tea.  We'd sometimes trade some of our gifts among each other until we got what we thought were the best gifts for each of us.  She'd always cook a lot of food and without fail she'd encourage us to take plenty home.  Sometimes we weren't in the mood to have ham, pie or casserole for days, but we saw how important it was to her.  So, we'd take it home and eat as much as we reasonably could over the next few days before we got sick of it or it just got too old.  After about a week, the guilt of throwing away the excess food that we couldn't eat anymore of (or that had gone bad) would have been assuaged and we could go on with our lives.

Looking back it was a little sad, but it was kind of funny.

My mom wanted to be loved.  She wanted to feel useful.  She wanted to feel important.  She wanted to know she mattered to her kids.  I think in most cases among her kids, these things were true, even if she wasn't always sure of it.  It was like a little dance in a way.
I get you many affordable trinkets of my love--some really needed and others not so much--and I hope think well of me.  I feed you and provide you all the food you'd ever want and remember that I love you (and hope you feel the same way too).
I learned a valuable lesson from her.  Love doesn't have to be perfect, love can be a little needy, love can hope it is returned, but the main thing is the person providing it is trying.  They sincerely want to share it with you.  In and of itself there is immense value in that.  If someone treats you with warmth and kindness and tries to be there for you, does it really matter if it isn't always 100% on the mark or part of the motive for it could be hoping to get it back?  Sometimes showing love is accepting that token, that attempt, that (sometimes imperfect) effort the other is showing you.  Sure, I may have not needed that piece of pie or leftover pie or helpings of turkey, but how hard is it to put away my pride or put away my "oh you really didn't have to do that" or  my "I can't take all this home" How hard is it to accept the 'serving of pie', the gift of love?

God blesses us with people in our lives, people that are willing to make that extra effort to show us warmth, even if sometimes their desire to be loved or appreciated may seem over the top, I think it is important to be grateful for them and love them and show love to them for whom they are.  They may embarrass you at times, but dammit they are sometimes the sweetest people.  

As you might sense, this post actually hurts a bit to write.  I was blessed with a sweet mom who put up with my flaws and idiosyncrasies and all she asked was for a little bit of love in return.  God blessed me with a realization of this as I worked my way from young adulthood to "middle-aged".

I love you and miss you mom.  I wish I could have slowed down and spent more time with you (Even if by phone).  When given the gift of leftover turkey or pie, I will gladly take it home in your honor.

- Rich

(My mom passed away July 6th, 2014 to be at eternal peace with her Higher Power-God)

Monday, December 25, 2017

I won't tell no one your name: Being a True Friend

With Christmas Season (2017) in full swing, I was feeling this message about love and trying to be there for others,  Anyway, I tend to like music with a message, with feel, with meaning.  I guess that's why I like the song  "Grease".  ;-)  Comic relief aside, I was listening to one of my favorite songs from the 1990s: The Goo Goo Dolls' "Name".  I read some of the lyrics below and the take immediately following it on Lyrics Interpretations:

"Its lonely where you are, come back down, and I won't tell 'em your name" 
The take 
"This place you are in mentally/spiritually/emotionally is lonely, you guard yourself from reality and alienate yourself from those who care about you. Come back to reality, let go of your pride and embrace your shortcomings so you can heal. I won't expose, exploit or otherwise hurt you."
Songs (which many can be considered poetry) often have a way of expressing a complex idea in a couple phrases.

Sometimes we aren't in the best place. Sometimes we want to come to reconnect, but "we don't know how".  Sometimes we want to reconnect but we don't feel that it is safe to try.  Sometimes the hurt--or perceived risk of it--that comes from making ourselves vulnerable keeps from engaging those who care about us.  We really want to open up, but like an animal who is out of its usual surroundings we have to get a sense that it is safe before we venture too far out (emotionally).

The holidays are time in which we get the opportunity to connect with the ones we love.  However, for many people it is a time of loneliness or hurt.  

  • Feeling the loss more acutely of those close to us whom have passed.
  • Feeling the lack of a close knit family.
  • In a new situation or surrounding in which our routine has been interrupted (temporarily or permanently).

Whatever the cause, the holidays can be a time of hurt for some.  Ultimately healing is journey in which we have to find our way.  However, having those close to us can guide or at least walk along with us in our journey.  Sometimes all we need is someone who will listen to us without judgment, but instead with love.  We all have been there (or will be there) sometime in our life.   For those with an abundance of serenity, we can't necessarily, nor is it our job to 'fix' love ones around us.  However, what we can offer is love--in the form of being there for others who are hurting.  It can be a family member, a friend, a coworker, a member of one of our groups, or frankly it can be the stranger in line at the store who looks like they could use a friendly ear.

We can give CDs, electronics, gift cards, clothes, etc.  However, the best gift we can ever give to others is sometimes just our empathy and willingness to be there even when our heart may not totally be into it.

So, as we are serving a slice of turkey, a slice of desert or slice of toasted bread, consider also serving a slice of love to those whom we are blessed with the opportunity to be a blessing to.  Listen with empathy, listen with compassion, listen without judgment, but most of all, listen with love.

May God bless your Christmas season this year.

-- Rich

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Demons Part 4: No matter where you go, you will always be with you...

Recently I was listening to "My Eyes Adored You" by Frankie Valli and it got me to thinking.  In this song, over time, he sings of a lady friend whom he has loved literally since he was a kid.  Even though she never returned his love, it still remained in his heart no matter where he was, how long it had been, and no matter what he did.  In short, that was his cross to bear.  One could say perhaps it was his demon as there was no escaping his unrequited love for his lady friend.  With my birthday coming up soon, I thought this blog idea (and quote) was quite appropriate.

I've come to realize that everyone in this life has their cross to bear--for some it is a physical cross, for other it is psychological.  Sometimes that cross to bear feels like a demon.  The funny thing about personal demons is that you can't outrun them.  You can try to hide from them, you can try to ignore them, you can try to 'medicate' them away, but unless you've dealt with them, they will be there wehn you 'finish the day'.  I'm not sure who quoted it first, but as a wise man once said, "Wherever you go, there you are".

One of my favorite Bible stories is that of Jonah and the Whale.  In that story, the Lord spoke to his servant Jonah and told him to go to Nineveh and preach to the Ninevites.   They needed to repent of their sins lest they faith His wrath and be destroyed.  Well Jonah didn't particularly like the people of Nineveh as they were enemies of Israel.  So, he was fine with the Lord destroying them and therefore tried to run from obligations.  Naturally, the Lord being the Lord, He wasn't going to just sit idly by while His servant Jonah disrespected His will.  So, when Jonah caught a ship going the other way, the Lord sent a great storm that way.  Jonah was then awoken by the ship's captain and implored to call upon God to calm the storm.  Soon thereafter, the ship's population cast lots and determined that it was Jonah who had brought the trouble with him.  Jonah realized at this point what he needed to do to save the ship and its crew.  After some resistance from them, Jonah convinced the crew to toss him overboard to calm God.  Eventually they did and immediately thereafter the great storm had ceased, putting the fear of the Lord in all of them.  Anyway, Jonah was swallowed by a great whale and after three days in the whale, he cried up to God to spare him.  The Lord chose to spare him and the whale spat him on dry land.  When the Lord ordered Jonah to go to Nineveh again, Jonah took the hint and went there, upon which time the Ninevites repented of their sins and were spared.  In this story, Jonah was fortunate as his demon or cross that he had to bear was blatantly obvious: He had to help those whom he hated, no matter how much it upset him.   In our lives, the demons are not always so obvious and/or more not have a way to be (fully) resolved.  Yet,  even if we can't make a demon disappear, we can find a way to come to terms with it even while we work to lessen it.

Dealing with "Demons"
  • Recognizing them
    • Awareness of their existence.
    • Awareness of what they are
    • Awareness of what they aren't
  • Accepting their existence.
    • Accepting the full extent of them.
    • Accepting whatever level of permanence they are at.
  • Dealing with them
    • Knowing what you can and should do to deal with them.
    • Knowing what you can't or shouldn't do to deal with them.
  • Coming to terms with them
    • Accepting the aspects (of demons) that you can't change.
    • Working to change the aspects that you can.
    • Being wise enough to know which demons (or aspects thereof) you can change, which ones you cannot and being willing to accept the difference.

A personal example
Anyone who knows me knows that one of my biggest demons is sadness, specifically missing my daughter.  I have less than half time custody of her (and only half the holidays).  I've learned to deal, but I still cannot escape the sadness.  Sometimes I just have to be sad and maybe shed a few tears.  But, I know I can't just have her whenever I want.  I've accepted that I will have times in which I don't get to see her and I will be sad.  However, I know there are things I can do to maximize my time with her-including volunteering to coach, offering to watch her when her mom has late/early morning meetings, asking for days during the summer if/when her mom offers it.

I've recognized my demon--sadness due to loss of time with my daughter--and accepted it as part of who I am (a man who has strong feelings).   I've recognized what I can do to deal with the demon and what I cannot.  I'm also working to change the situation to the extent I can (and therefore reduce the loss of missing her).

Anyway, just my random musing the week.  Hopefully, you are able to retrieve something out of this post.


Other posts on demons:

Demons: Facing Demonsl

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Are You Tough Enough for My Love?

Recently after a long day at work, I was about to head home and the song Coming Home by Cinderella occurred to me.  Specifically these lyrics: 

I see the fire in your eyes but a man's gotta make his way
So are you tough enough for my love
Just close your eyes to the heaven above
I'm comin home, I'm comin home

In the song, the lead singer is reflecting his time on the road, the impact it has on his family and the anticipation of going back to family.  Anyway, he asks a good question: "So are you tough enough for my love"?  This got me to thinking, relationships can take a lot of work, a lot of dedication and frankly just ability to cope with difficult circumstances.  The common refrain in wedding vows such as listed below.

I, ___, take you, ___, for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part."

That vow wasn't created for no reason.  It's been widely recognized across time and cultures that marriage isn't always an easy journey.  Often times, I think people really have no idea just how much work it is or will be.  Hence the vow doesn't sugar coat marriage.  It speaks of a commitment.  Not just words, but the willingness and mindset that you are in it for the long haul.  Anyone who has been previously married or has been married for a long time is likely to get this (or should get it), but you know I get these inspirations and feel the need to remind everyone of this.  ;-)

We don't always know what we are getting into when we get married and really how can we?  Typically, there is usually so much we don't know about each other.  We go off our gut, we go off our instinct and lets just be frank, we go off our hope based on something intriguing we find in each other. 

In my blog post, It's just you and me and we just disagree..., I explored the idea that not all relationships that end are do to a "bad guy" or lack of effort, but that it's an easy trap to label failures as having a "bad guy".  In my 48 years, I've seen friends and family have failed marriages, been a child of and once even been part of a failed marriage.    Here are some of the obstacles I've seen to successful marriages which require "toughness" or "understanding" or "commitment" (that in some cases can apply to both partners).
  • Partners in the marriage either don't have or haven't made the time necessary to get to know each other.  
    • Work schedule
    • Kid schedule 
  • A trauma has hit close to home.  Examples include:
    • Child gets sick or dies.  
    • Someone has had health problems, sometimes to a point in which it has changed the person or the dynamics of the relationship.
    • Financial disaster such as bankruptcy or failed business.
  • A spouse had unresolved hurts.
    • Especially, but not limited to family of origin hurts.  
    • Perhaps we already know that he or she has hurts, but not necessarily the extent.  
    • In a way, this is a trauma at an early age.
    • His/her reactions seem out of proportion or puzzling to us.  But, when taken in the context of hurts can be seen as 'protecting' him or herself.
  • A spouse has hangups (or a tendency towards) that we weren't aware of or aware of the extent of.  Examples include:
    • What we perceived as having an occasional drink was in reality our spouse hiding (or denying) a real problem with alcohol.
    • A spouse gets sick and takes pain killers only to have them take over his or her life.
  • A spouse has annoying habits or idiosyncracies that we didn't see so clearly when we were just dating.  Examples include:
    • Being a control freak.  What seemed like organization on their part or "being helpful" now is more clearly control.
    • Making important decisions/purchases without at least passing it by the other spouse.
    • Being disorganized.  It may not have seem like such a big deal or obvious during the dating stage, but we find that it gets in the way of being productive.
This isn't meant to be an all-inclusive list of obstacles to a successful marriage, but just some things I've observed over the years.  Your list very probably will be different.  In any case, even when each partner in a marriage wants the marriage to succeed and truly cares about the other spouse, this is a question that can be asked.  We don't always express our love to our spouse the same way.  We don't always express our love to our spouse in the same measure.  We don't always express our love to our spouse effectively in our actions.  But, in each case, that doesn't mean it isn't present.  In a way, I guess it boils back down to the question.

"So are you tough enough for my love."

Each partner has his/her flaws and his or her ways of expressing themselves, but I guess the question we have to ask early on--when we are answering the question, "Do you take..."--is our we tough enough to accept the imperfect love that our spouse shows us?

Just some thoughts.  Thanks for reading and I hope everyone who reads this finds the courage, strength and fortitude they need to appreciate their imperfect spouse, especially when their spouse really does care about them.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Hooked on Feelings, Logic or Both

I was watching Guardians of the Galaxy 2 with my family and it was refreshingly funny.  In an era in which the heroes and the superheroes in the movies seem to be stiff, stilted, overwrought, too self-important, grandiose or otherwise not capable of being relaxed or relaxing, seeing the humorous interaction in that movie between them saving the galaxy just completely put me in a good frame of mind and good humor.  While, it had its funny moments, it also had it's serious and sentimental moments.  Speaking of sentimental moments, I heard a song from the movie "Hooked on a Feeling" which really spoke to me.  If you listen to the song it seems to speak of love in a drug-like fashion.  For some reason, that I really connected to that song and it's become one of my recent favorites.

When listening to it this morning, I thought about how we process information and express ourselves.  Some people are very emotive people, some people seem to fancy themselves as Mr. Spock-like logicians, but there are a lot of people who have varying degrees of both characteristics--emotion/logic.  I myself seem to be be strongly steeped with both, sometimes seemingly competing for my approval or expression.  Everyone is different and you may see yourself as strongly emotive, strongly a logician or both.  I guess it's all a matter of interpretation.  In any case, each characteristic has its benefits and drawbacks and I believe in a good balance can work well together.   So let's consider all this from what I see:
  • Emotive People
  • Logical People

Emotive People - Driven primarily by passions or emotions
  • Benefits
    • They can be some of the most sensitive or empathetic people.
    • They can be some of the most driven people.
      • If you passionately believe in a cause, you will be more inclined to push/live it.
      • If you passionately believe in a cause, you will be less likely to give up when facing adversity.
  • Drawbacks
    • Their passions when unchecked can draw them down the wrong paths.
    • Their passions when unchecked can keep them stuck in the wrong direction.
    • Their energy when unfocused can be tiring, ineffective, and be used against them.

Logicians - Driven primarily the 'need' to be (or appear) logical
  • Benefits
    • They aren't weighed down by the "burden" of excess emotion.
    • They can see beyond the overwrought emotions of issues/situations and see what is really important and what is overwrought.
    • They can make cool and calculated decisions in times of crisis when more emotive types can melt under pressure.
  • Drawbacks
    • They can come across as very insensitive or lacking empathy.  While leaders need to be logical and cool under pressure, they also need to be able to connect when people are suffering.
    • Their decisions, while possibly for the best, can turn people off as they can seem to be heartless.
    • By focusing too much on logic, they may not have developed the relationships and passion necessary to push through necessary changes.

A quick way to summarize emotive vs. logical is this.  Emotive people will tend to have the emotional understanding and the passion needed to accomplish great things--large or small-- and motivate people, but the passion can sometimes can overwhelm and blind them to the best approach.  Logicians will tend to have the intellectual insight to see beyond the emotional clutter and be cool under pressure, but they can miss the necessary human nature or human touch that can motivate people.   For me, in an optimal mix, a person will have a strong emotive side which fuels their passions to accomplish great things, but also have a strong logician side to focus, utilize and guide their emotive side rather than suppress it.

Just as the world cannot operate on one personality type.  We need creative type to think outside the box and invent, but we also need the orderly type to manage the chaos.  And so it is with emotive vs. logicians.  We need emotive people with the passion to push necessary social change, but we need logicians to help implement necessary change in the best way possible.  I guess the takeaway is this, embrace the personality type that best reflects you (emotive vs. logician) and utilize it to your advantage, but be open to elements of or people who favor the other.