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Showing posts with label intervention. Show all posts
Showing posts with label intervention. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Guilt: The pain that endures until...

I was watching a movie recently during the "Great Pandemic of 2020" that really caught my intention.  In the movie Bounce, Ben Affleck's character, Buddy, meets a random traveler, Greg, in an airport.  A chance encounter really.  After their brief interaction, Buddy realizes he has something that could help Greg--a ticket on their flight that Greg was bumped off of.  Now, Buddy has his own motives.  He has meet another fellow traveler whom he's hit it off with and wants to hook up with.  Besides, as the lead advertising exec in charge of the airline account, he'll just get a free flight the next morning.   This seems like a win-win-win for all parties UNTIL the flight that he got Greg in on crashes killing all the passengers.  Buddy realizes that it 'should have been him' and feels guilt for giving Greg the ticket on the ill-fated flight.  Buddy realizes his cavorting had saved his life but inadvertently led to family-man Greg's death.  

I think there is a time in everyone's life in which they question their choices, behaviors and things they've ignored, overlooked, blew off or missed.  When there is harm or pain for another at the end of these circumstances, I believe it reveals itself as guilt.  According to Shelly Webb of the, the big difference between guilt and regret is intention.  She says,
"The difference is that guilt is felt when what you have done was intentionally done to cause the other person harm or pain in some way.  Regret is felt when you inadvertently caused pain or harm (perceived or real) to someone and that you wish you could change the past."   As a practical matter for the individual with these feelings there only may be a marginal difference in the significance of the two.  Yes, maybe I didn't mean to cause any pain or harm, but I did and the practical outcome is still the same.  Someone else ends up harmed or hurt, intentional or not.

In the movie, Buddy knows it should have been him that died in the crash.  So, he has has survivor's guilt.  No, he couldn't have stopped the plane from crashing, but he could have kept the ticket.  In his mind, he'd have taken on the harm, instead of 'allowing' Greg and his family to face it.  In my own life, I've talked about survivor's guilt a few times.  My late brother texted me that "I think I am dying".  Now, he'd been having trouble coping with financial and relationship difficulties as his financial future looked bleak and he felt there was no one for him.  He had felt like he had been a failure and he didn't always feel like he had the emotional support system.  I had been having a rough time in my own life at that time and told myself that it was probably him expressing hopelessness and not literally dying.  Authorities found him later in his apartment and due to circumstances couldn't exactly pinpoint exact time or cause, but based on their best guess and circumstantial evidence surrounding his passing, there is a reasonable chance that may have been his one of, if not his last conversation.  Yet, I did not give it the attention that it needed.  I knew he had been deeply depressed and I had been worried about him, but I'd seen him make it through rough patches before after 'disappearing'.  I have literally been saddled with guilt over this the last 9 years in some way over it.  I know my own circumstances were getting very dicey, but I felt that I 'knew enough' that I should have known better and checked on him and not let it slide.  In other words, I'd have put aside my present hardship at the time and given him the attention he needed.  I felt guilty about selfishly 'ignoring' him.  I realize now it is more regret than guilt, but you know, that's like closer to 8 than 9 on the 1-10 pain scale of 1-10.  Either way, it is very painful.   But, I digress.

In Bounce, Buddy seeks out Greg's widow and tries to help her out on the quietly to pacify his guilt.  Nothing truly works  in assuaging his guilt until he faces it head on.   I've come to realize the same.  Maybe, Buddy should have thought more with his heart than libido, but than again, if they thought the flight was risky, they'd have never flown.  So, how was Buddy supposed to have known?  It could have easily been Buddy's later flight that went down in flames.  Maybe I should have been a 'more focused' on my late brother's bad vibe, but I know sometimes life gets in the way.   I've seen people be able to bounce back from feelings of guilt quickly, I've seen them take years to bounce back and I've seen people never really bounce back.  I think for me, I am finally facing it head on.  I'd like to share a few takeaways I have learned and am learning in the process.
  • We have so many interactions in our lives.  So, many circumstances or situations.  There is literally no way we can get it right every time.  
    • Much of the time the consequences of 'failing' is relatively speaking small.  You miss your kid's appointment, miss their concert, etc., it is upsetting.  But, it is not like beat them without mercy,  but instead disappointed them.   It's upsetting, but it's not fatal. 
    • Occasionally, the consequence is huge and tragic.  Maybe you shouldn't have known he or she was too tired to drive.  However, if they'd cheated sleep before, it may have given you a false sense of security that it didn't seem to be an issue of concern.
    • Ironically, I got this early on.  I said to my daughter's mom that one day something will happen to our baby no matter how hard we try and we'll feel bad about it.  My big concern was not a parent fail, but just limiting the size of the inevitable.
    • It's hard to accept, but effectively what is at play here is that we can't control everything.
  • Invariably, the one time we let up or let things slide is when the bad circumstance will happen.
    • The 'one' time I didn't immediately check on in on a loved one, things went sideways.
    • The one time you let someone talk you out of taking them to the ER was the one time it was more serious that originally thought.
  • It is easy to forget the times in which we did get it right or didn't 'fail'.  We ignore those times and beat ourselves up.
    • I did positively intervene when my brother was struggling and helped him, giving him hope for longer than he otherwise would have had.
    • You have always attended your kid's concerts before faithfully before.
    • You have saved the day multiple times at work already. 
  • Sometimes we just have to take care of ourselves.
    • You could literally spend all your time worrying about a situation, but sometimes it is not completely in our control and we can't spend all our time stressing about controlling it.
    • Sometimes, our situation requires our attention.  If we aren't healthy enough for ourselves, we probably won't be healthy enough to help another.
  • Ultimately, we can't fix everything.
    • Accepting 'defeat' or helplessness can be a tough pill to swallow.  This is especially true if we pride ourselves on being a fixer or problem solver.
    • Many times the circumstance we feel guilt about it is not totally in our control.
      • We could have told our loved one to see a doctor or maybe we didn't think they were open to hearing it.  Ultimately, only they know how they feel and ultimately and it is their call.
      • We could have done an intervention, but there was the risk of alienating our loved one and losing any ability to communicate.  So, we choose a lighter footprint, hoping it works out.

Maybe my words, might right true for some.  Maybe their circumstance my differ?  Either way, guilt is a pain, which when not properly addressed, can endure indefinitely.  In any case, I hope someone or someone(s) have found my words and experiences helpful.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Cutting Off Escape Routes: Forcing Responsibility

As an outside observer and as a parent myself I noticed a few things about raising kids and frankly 'raising' aka dealing with adults too.  I've spoken before of people having comfort zones.  By this I meant they are comfortable doing thing a certain way regardless if it is necessarily the 'best way'.   For example, for some odd reason, I like eating most leftovers cold.  Not sure if it is not wanting to wait or deal with heating it up or what.  To my wife, it doesn't make sense, but it's what I feel comfortable with.  In any case, escape routes are a comfort zone issue.  Often find ways to avoid doing what we should or need to by locating an escape route.  That is to say a reason, excuse, or delay tactic to take the place of doing what we need to.

Here are a few examples of things we might want to avoid and create an 'escape routes' for.  That is to say, the things we do to try to doing what we don't want to such as:
  • Having to talk to family.
  • Having to go to work. 
  • Having to do homework.  
  • Having to go to sleep/stay awake.
  • Having to go to the store.

Below are a couple examples of an escape route and cutting it off:
  • If my daughter isn't awake already (on a school day), I will wake her up to get ready for the day.  She has said, "If you leave (my room)  I will get up and get ready."   That was her escape route, pressing me to leave at which time she could just plop her head down on the pillow. Anyway, my response to her is this: "If you stand up and get out of bed, I will leave.  After sending my wife in a couple of times to see if she's asleep or changing, and being told she's asleep, I confronted her on it and forced her to get out of bed when I was there.   She didn't like it and growled at first, but it was important for both of us she get up and ready so we both could be on time to where we needed to go.  Anyway, my forcing her to get up and stand up was cutting off her escape route of rolling back over and falling back asleep.  I was forcing on her the responsibility of getting ready for school.
  • A family intervention in which the family refuses to leave until their drug-addicted family member 'surrenders' to rehab.  By that point, they likely would have been pressing him or her to seek help, but being brushed off or promised that they will get it.

Before I finish this post on escape routes I did want to make a few observations:
  • From my observation, people usually don't take to well to having an escape route cut off.   It's not called an escape route because you want to stay in the circumstance or situation you are in or face what you need to.  It's an escape route because you are avoiding something you need to deal with.  Being forced to do so isn't exactly comfortable.  
  • The process of cutting off escape routes can be done so verbally and/or by actions.
    •  If a spouse or sibling is avoiding an uncomfortable conversation, for example, you can redirect the conversation back when they try to change subjects or you can logically cut through the verbal objects they throw in the way.
    • If your child refuses to do her homework and instead goes out with their friends, you can take away their keys and take away their ability to leave without doing their homework.
  • Sometimes it is not our place to cut off someone's escape route.
    • Just because we don't like what choices our adult kids are making doesn't automatically give us a right to interfere and force our will on them, especially if they are not dependent on us.
    • When someone has told us they need space or they don't want to be with us anymore, we can push for a discussion on it or to have them hear us out.   But, keeping them from leaving OR keeping tabs on them while it may be a way from keeping them from 'escaping', it is usually considered harassment or stalking, which is not okay.  It's okay to want to be heard out, but it's not okay to control others.
  • Sometimes we need the escape route, especially if we are in an abusive or toxic relationship.
    • Changing our phone number or address is an escape route from an abusive estranged partner.
    • Get a protection order can be an escape route from an abusive estranged partner.
    • This is especially true, when there are no children involved.  There is absolutely no reason in this case for our estranged partner to try to reach out to us.
  • Sometimes an 'escape route' may be a coping mechanism (or safety valve) that the other party needs until he or she can cope better.  For example, if a child loses a parent, he or she may not be ready to talk about it or openly grieve in front of others.   Sometimes, they just need quiet time to reflect on their loss and do what they need to cope--such as listen to music or just cry in private.  Forcing them to do so too quickly can at the least can breed resentment and at could cause unforeseen problems with the grieving process.

In summary, there are times when it is imperative to cut off 'escape routes' and force responsibility on our loved ones.  However, escape routes are sometimes in place for our benefit and the benefit of others and we should consider the purpose and circumstance of the escape route before mindlessly cutting it off.

Just some thoughts for the day after Christmas (2018).


Monday, December 5, 2016

Depression: It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over

Sorry folks, but it is time for a melancholy post.  Don't mean to be a killjoy, but I say what my head and sometimes my heart tell me to write and I feel this one in my bones, needing to get out.  It is my hope that my posts are read and shared.  I hope one day to have a wide distribution that people can either can relate, hear something that 'explains' what they've felt, or just give a different perspective to what they've thought on matters. Anyway, I am working on a more 'positive' one to balance out, but I digress.  Anyway, here I dive in.  

The holidays can be hard to face for those who have lost someone close and/or do not have a close knit family.  When you see the warmth and joy elsewhere around you, it is easy to reflect on what is missing.

I have circled this issue many times and in many forms, but I have never landed on it.  Like releasing an ordinance from a jet and hitting around a target, but never quite hitting the target.  Some of the forms I've touched upon are as follow:
  • Suicide
  • Feeling blue
  • Disconnected
  • Sadness
  • Walking wounded
  • Melancholy
So, here I speak on it finally: Depression.  As a Christian, we are taught not to worry and to have faith in God above.  We are taught to look at the big picture, that is the long view.  Struggle and suffering are a part of this life, but that ultimately in our Savior we will have victory when the struggles of this life have passed.  There are countless scriptures for encouragement and strengthening.  I won't enumerate them, but will point to Encouraging Scriptures.

I believe all these things and more.  However, I know that faith itself will not prevent us from struggles, faith itself will not prevent us from getting down at times.  Faith itself will not keep us from the trials and tribulations that are the byproduct of our fallen nature and an imperfection.   Faith itself will not always keep us from moments of feeling sad and hopeless.  The Bible itself has numerous examples of people feeling hopeless at times: Jonah, King David, Elijah, etc.  While the takeaway from the Bible is there is hope for those who call themselves Children of God, from what I see, the Bible recognizes feelings of discouragement, hopelessness and depression.  So, how can I square my faith with my feelings of discouragement at times?  How can I square my faith with my moments of depression and hopelessness?   How do I tell others to have faith, when I have my moments of hopelessness?  Eternal questions.  The short answer is that in following our faith, we are not promised a life of comfort, a life of ease, a life of carefree.  What we are promised is an absolution of our sin and ultimate victory over death.  I gave this as part of the eulogy for my brother Bill what we are promised...

1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 54-56
42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is
perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised
in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural
body, it is raised a spiritual body.
54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal
with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has
been swallowed up in victory."
55 "Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


As I wrote this for my brother Bill who took his life in July 2011.  The backstory I wrote in Don't you forget about me: The blog I needed to write one day about my late brother.   He was a baptized believer, but he struggled mightily with hopelessness.  I hope and pray God understood his pain and took that into account.  Anyway, with him it was like as if you told him the weather was mostly sunny and he'd probably come back and effectively say, "I guess that means it is cloudy outside".  When you are in that place, it is hard to see the glass as half full, but instead it is easier to see the glass as half empty with the risk of the glass just being knocked over and all the hope drain out.  I know this because I have had points like that before.  Not quite to the extent that Bill had, but enough to know the personal hell he must have felt.  Divorce, death of close ones, loss of custody, bankruptcy, losing your house and losing most of your possession, & job loss all can weigh on you.  But, like Job, even when you think God has abandoned you, He is there.  But you have to look past the debris and look at The Promise (see above scripture).


What is depression?  According to Merriam-Webster, one of the definitions of depression is as follow:

"a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies"

Those are fine words and that is a good clinical description, but let's take it down to the day-to-day level. What does it feel like?
  • It is a dreading of getting out of bed to face the day ahead.  It is a wanting to go to work early, to run errands early, to go to the gym to work out, but instead feeling like it is safest to just stay in bed as long as you can.
  • It is the sense that no matter how much you try things will inevitably not end well.  I sense of what's the point.  In other words, not getting too high when good things happen as it is just a cruel trick before the other shoe drops as it inevitably will.
  • It is a feeling of needing something to numb, block, drown or overcome the pain.  Something such as alcohol, drugs (prescribed or other), gambling, extensive TV watching, drowning in music, a tryst, you name it.  Just anything you can to take away the pain for as long as possible or to extend better feelings for just little longer.
  • It is a vacant or blank affect of, I don't care,  That is what does it matter anyway?
  • It is like the feeling of wanting to walk away and never look back.
  • It is the wondering if anyone would care if you just disappeared.  It is the sense that you don't matter too much if at all.
  • It is the sense of tiredness of fighting it all.  Wishing you could just have the pain taken away.
  • It is the sense of shrinking into yourself and not wanting anyone to notice or say anything.  But, instead to let you lick your wounds.

You get the picture.  Some of this I've felt at times, some of it I've observed in others and some of it is what I perceive that it would be like.   Anyway, if you observe this attitude or behavior in another, it's hard to know what to do.
  • Do you press your loved one for what's wrong and not take 'Nothing' or "I'm okay" for an answer?  Hard to know what to say.  
  • Do you 'stage an intervention' and risk them shutting you out or totally rejecting you, thereby destroying ability to influence them.  
  • Do you just constantly remind them in a friendly but not pushy way that you are there for them, hoping that they reveal enough or let you in enough to know when it is time to step in?  (In other words, come to you before they completely check out).
  • Do you 'ambush' them when they've dropped off the grid?  In other words, checking in on them, but not quite staging an intervention.
Obviously, with my brother, I had some, if not all, of these questions in my mind.  I'm sure for anyone who has dealt with depression or someone who has it, has additional pondering similar to those above.  

I'm not sure exactly what the takeaway from this post is, except for the following:
  1. Regardless of how deeply you choose to intervene, always remind your loved one that you care about them.  Even if you think, well, they won't care or notice my efforts, they will.
  2. Share your concerns with trusted others around you--including possibly a counselor or minister or his/her friends.  Many people have either faced or known someone who has faced similar struggles.  With a little bit of God's grace, you might find someone who can either share your burden or give you pointers on what to do.
  3. Pray.  It doesn't have to be a long prayer.  It doesn't actually have to be speaking aloud to God.  It could a simple thought to Him: "God, I don't know what to do, 'please advise me'." or "God, 'please let my loved one be open to Your help'"
  4. Remember ultimately, there is only so much you can do.  Just like much else in life, you have to do what your gut tells you and leave the results to your Higher Power.

I hope this post will hit a person or two along the way.  Thanks for being my audience.  It sounds funny with such a melancholy blog, but Cheers.  :)


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Dangers of a poorly thought out intervention, taking a horse to water

When jokingly expressing to a friend that he should have intervened in a family situation, I came up with this gem.  I was cracking up when I the thought of it popped in my head. 


With enough people you can take a horse to water
 And attempt to force it to drink
What you will likely end up with is a drowned horse
And a jail sentence for cruelty to animals


In other words, sometimes if the person isn't open to it at all, the intervention could actually backfire. Secondarily, it can be dangerous to 
'swim in the pool' with an addict to reach them as it could drag you down with them.

The irony of this post didn't initially come to me.  But, there is one addiction, in which you don't want the proverbial horse to drink.  Namely, alcoholism.  In that case, you don't necessary want to take the horse to water.  You might want to take him or her to detox instead.  :o)