Conflict in Marriages and Families

Conflict is a good thing.  It is a necessary part of life, progress, growth and movement.  Conflict is a part of marriages and families that holds great potential for growth and maturity.

In Psychology Today (March 23, 2017) Elizabeth Dorrance Hall observes that there are least three reasons conflict is a good thing in relationships.

  1. Conflict signals a need for change.

The biggest room in anyone’s life is the room for improvement.  Conflict pushes us out of comfort zones and wakes us up to opportunities and challenges that enrich our lives and equip us for bigger challenges.

2. Conflict celebrates our interdependence.

Relationships are fascinating mixtures of independent people trying to work together in mutually beneficial ways. Our unique personal preferences, priorities and goals will conflict with those qualities of another unique individual.  Healthy relationships learn to celebrate the differences that push us to grow beyond ourselves.  They do this by identifying the points of conflict, working to understand each other’s perspective and collaborating to discover new and different ways to compensate for those differences.

3. Conflict is almost never about that which it seems to be on the surface.

In marriage and family therapy we often see conflict as the symptom that is calling attention to the real problem.  Everyone is enriched when we  push past the conflicting symptom to discuss the deeper values and principles that at stake.

CONFLICT IS COMMON

Metaphors abound in nature to illustrate the benefits of conflict.

  • Chicks necessarily pecking to exit their eggshells.
  • Germinating seeds that push through the dirt to find the light.
  • Road graders that must push aside the soil for a highway.
  • Students trying to push through assignments before deadlines.
Conflict handled in a mutually beneficial manner holds so much potential for good.  It is unfortunate that many see conflict as more of a threat than an opportunity for growth.
Sometimes we are more interested in making sure our issues are heard and understood than we are in considering the viewpoint of the other person.  It does not take much time or effort to be misunderstood.  Conversely, understanding and being understood takes time and focused attention.

SIMPLE GUIDELINES TO RESOLVING CONFLICT

The truth is that there are few ‘simple’ solutions easily applied that readily result in positive outcomes.  At the same time there are some general guidelines that may be helpful.

  1. Seek to understand rather than to be understood. Listening is a skill to be learned and practiced.  It is particularly challenging to practice our listening skills when we strongly disagree with what is being said by the other person.  Conflict is easier to manage when we take the time to listen and reflect so we can respond carefully.
  2. Observe the “STOP” rule to avoid destructive conflict.  When the destructive communication begins to emerge, each person should be given the right to call a ‘time out’.  Follow this immediately with agreeing to meet at a better time and place and try again, applying Guideline 1 (above).
  3. Seek win/win solutions.  Win/lose and lose/lose situations rarely succeed in resolving feelings.  When one person ‘wins’ an argument by intimidation, the ‘loser’ is left to come up with a way to resolve feelings that can be pretty intense .  Lose/lose situations occur when each person compromises, losing something in order to win something else.

CONCLUSION

Work to achieve solutions where each person feels that they have been heard, understood and respected.  Everyone wins when we spend the time and energy to arrive at mutually beneficial solutions to conflict.

Routines in Marriages and Families

One day last week I got up as usual and showed up at the gym at the usual time as part of my daily routine.  There was only one problem.  I forgot that it was Saturday.  The gym opens 30 minutes later on Saturday mornings.  I knew that; I just forgot.  So, I put gas in the car and came back, checked messages on my phone.  No big deal.

Routines are helpful parts of our usual day because they allow us to execute mindless tasks while thinking of other things or talking to other people at the same time.  Think of the mindless tasks we execute every day when we dress, eat or brush our teeth.  Multitasking is enabled by simple routines.  Routines are helpful.

Establishing routines can be an exercise in efficiency.  For example, I know that when I use my key to open the trunk of my car, I will, without thought, leave the key in the lock.  This way I won’t lock my keys in the trunk…like I used to do…until I learned a new routine.  Now, I don’t have to waste time waiting on a locksmith to open my trunk so I can get my keys.

I like to keep routine office hours.  This way, people know when they can come to my office and have a face-to-face conversation without having to bother with an appointment.  I do my best to maintain those regular, predictable office hours; but, there are exceptions.

ROUTINES IN MARRIAGE

In marriages routines are important ways to establish and maintain  trust.  Regular, predictable behaviors and attitudes over a long period of time build relational strength and flexibility.

For example, when one partner knows the other will be at a certain place at a certain time it becomes an expectation.  It is part of the routine.  A simple text message or phone call when the routine is changed can assure partners that all is well; no worries.  However, repeated disruptions of routines without warning can erode trust; a key to lasting relationships.

Partners tend to choose to believe the best when routines are maintained and they are informed about sudden changes.  Unexpected changes in routines without clear lines of communication can lead partners to begin to question their choice to trust.  If left unattended, trust in one’s partner can become a serious question.  In decaying relationships, partners can actually begin to believe the worst, even for the most innocent of alterations to routines.

Routines are important.

EMPLOYMENT

A common refrain I hear from the self-employed business owner is that good help is hard to find.  When asked what the most common problem they must face with new employees I often hear that they are not dependable.  In other words, their routines have not adapted to show up for work on time rested and ready to be productive throughout the work day.

A potential employee may have a predictable routine of staying up late at night playing video games, sleeping later than most in the morning and being sluggish throughout the day.  Nonetheless, as comfortable as the potential employee may be with similar routines, they will likely have to change when a typical day-job with responsibilities comes along; that is, if they wish to in crease the probabilities for lasting employment and a good reputation.

CONCLUSION

More than just something to do over and over, routines can be keys to trust in your relationships.

 

Relationships

RELATIONSHIPS ARE COMPLEX

How we interact with those we love is based upon a lifetime of experiences and understandings. Painful experiences have taught us what not to do or say.  Pleasant and rewarding interactions have led us to establish ways to communicate our affections to and for others.

Family relationships are the crucible in which both painful and positive experiences mix together to make us who we are.  They influence how we act and react to others.  They inform us about the type of people we enjoy being around as well as those we stay away from.   How our parents and siblings treat each other affects how we fit into each other’s worlds.  They also impact the relationships we seek out and those we avoid.

Family relationships can be complex, multi-dimensional and personally challenging. The influence of our peers, our friends at school, work and church just adds to the list of experiences that make us who we are. Each person is intensely unique.  Though we may find similarities and commonalities with others there are inevitable differences and contrasts that will exist.

When we consider the complex nature of relating to one another it is no small wonder that we are able to form enduring marriages, long-term work agreements or sustainable friendships.  Just the ups and downs of living with all of its opportunities and challenges and the many rewarding and painful experiences contribute to the complexity that make up each and every individual person.

RELATIONSHIPS ARE HARD WORK

Long-lasting, sustainable relationships in the midst of these uniquely individual and diverse complexities is hard work.   Sometimes we are attracted to our opposites because of the way the other person completes us.  At other times we are drawn together because we share similar endeavors or values within which we find a commonality.

Whatever the attraction, in time we will move into areas that require a set of specific skills to help our relationships endure. Conflict and disagreements are inevitable.  The skills we use at those times draw upon our uniqueness as we place each ‘tool’ in our relational tool bag.

Carrying the metaphor a little further, every tradesman has his unique tool bag for his or her specialty.  The plumber has his tools handy for plumbing tasks, the carpenter has a tool bag with both similar and different tools for his trade.  Ask the plumber to use the tools in his bag, for example, to do the work of an electrical engineer and there are going to be problems.

WHAT KIND OF TOOLS ARE IN YOUR BAG?

In relationships we all carry our own unique tools in our relational tool bag.  Some of our bags are swelling with more tools than will ever be necessary.  Others of us have just enough to get the job done.  Some of our bags only have one or two tools that we use for everything.

Having the right tools in our bags is very important.  For example,  a hammer is not a very efficient tool for changing a spark plug.  Nor were a set of pliers designed to change a car tire.

Similarly, when we are in relationships our communication tools are adequate most of the time.  Then there are the times when they are not adequate.

The complexity that we bring must match the complexity of the other person if we are going to be effective.  Problems arise when we are pushed to extremes through tragedy, bad choices and other traumatic events in life.  To push through those times is often hard work that require a set of skills that we have not sensed the need to acquire before.

NEW TOOLS

Stephen Pylkas – Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

Licensed Marriage and Family TherapistOne of the advantages of Marriage and Family Therapists is that we are familiar with the needed tools of relationships and we are constantly in the process of picking up new tools along the way.  The complexity of people we encounter requires a constant retooling and re-thinking how old tools can be used in new ways.

Most families get along most of the time.  Then again, every once in a while, something comes up that just changes everything.  The old tools suddenly start failing us and we get stuck because we don’t know what else to do.

Sometimes it is helpful to talk with someone who helps people explore new options and possibilities.  Many times we know the answers to our problems; we just lack the motivation to do what needs to be done.  It is only with creative tenacity and sometimes someone else’s insight or observations that can push through to the other side.

Marriage & Family Therapy

Marriage & Family Therapy is an important tool for “helping people manage transitions, overcome obstacles and reach their potential.”  This is more than a purpose statement for my private practice as a licensed marriage and family therapist in the state of Michigan.

HELPING PEOPLE

For almost 40 years I have been focused upon this one goal as both a minister and a counselor.  Working as a minister at local churches my task has often been to help people discover their spiritual gifts and use  them in meaningful works of service.  At the same time I was going to graduate school and counseling people pastorally, as a spiritual guide.  My entire career has been built around helping people because Jesus helped people.

MANAGE TRANSITIONS

So many events happen in our lives that do not give us fair warning, a personal RSVP invitation or a heads up.   At other times we can anticipate changes ahead and begin to prepare for them such as when children attend their first day of school or when adults change jobs.  Life if filled with transitions which, most of the time, we manage without a second thought.  There are other times when we are forced to make transitions because of a sudden death, divorce or traumatic event.  Depending upon how prepared we are for what we must face it is sometimes worth considering sitting down with someone who can help you work through the pros and cons of choices that must be made to manage a transition that is particularly challenging.

OVERCOME OBSTACLES

While many super heroes are able to simple burst through brick walls with ease, most of us have to find ways to go around, over or under them.  In life brick walls often come in the way of unresolvable conflict, stubborn attitudes and hostile takeovers, for example.  The dynamics of brick walls can be very unique to a marriage or a family.  Sudden changes in our health status can change simple, effortless activities into impossible tasks that require herculean efforts.  Brick walls don’t move; they force us to adjust our course or walk away.  Navigating the least painful of unpleasant options can sometimes be aided by a listening ear, timely advice or just a different perspective.

REACH THEIR POTENTIAL

Truly, this is what helping people, managing transitions and overcoming obstacles is all about.  Helping a family make choices that will help them down the road of reaching their maximum potential is where much of the joy for the journey comes from in counseling others.  Sometimes the change can surprise us with a sudden insight or new way of looking at a problem.  At other times solutions require careful thought and consideration as we weigh options, eliminate unnecessary baggage and make thoughtful choices. Often, just having a plan that is ready to adapt to best- and worst-case scenarios can give peace in the midst of incredible storms in life.

CONCLUSION FOR MARRIAGE & FAMILY

When people schedule appointments with a marriage and family therapist it is not always because they don’t know what to do.  Sometimes the actions required are obvious and plain for everyone to see.   So, we set goals, work to discover what makes them difficult to achieve; what feelings need to be resolved.  Then we work together to start moving towards the goal in a way that respects family systems, marital dynamics and interpersonal challenges and opportunities.  That is when a marriage and family therapist can make all of the difference.

Questions? Fill out the confidential form below and I will try to respond within 24 hours.

 

Lost Connections

In his most recent book, Lost Connections, Johann Hari shares his own personal journey in the treatment of his depression and anxiety.  He had been prescribed several anti-depressants from age 18.  This was necessary, he was told, because of a chemical imbalance in his brain that the medications could treat.

When he was 31 Hari came to a personal crisis that led him to investigate the veracity of his doctor’s chemical imbalance

Lost Connections by Johann Hari

assumption.  This research led him to question the effectiveness of the medications and to wonder about alternative research into other causes of depression and anxiety.   Finally, his investigation explored current research into causes, treatments and potential solutions.

His conclusions strike a familiar chord for marriage and family therapists because of the emphasis upon interpersonal, relational systems.

DEPRESSION, ANXIETY AND FAMILY SYSTEMS

Marriage and family therapy is at the front lines of helping individuals, couples and families wrestle with mental and emotional health issues.  Depression and anxiety are influenced by life-cycle stressors, social interactions, familial relationships and communication patterns.

Hence, a value of this book to people who struggle with depression and anxiety is that it encourages the reader to explore  options that may have been significant contributing factors.  In addition, there are other options for treatment that very closely align with familiar marriage and family approaches.  Finally, the simple listing of chapter headings reveals familiar Christian teaching, in spite of the fact that the author himself is an atheist.

CAUSES OF DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY

Below is a list of the book’s chapters under the theme of “Disconnection” as Part II.

  1. Disconnection from Meaningful Work
  2. Disconnection from Other People
  3. Disconnection from Meaningful Values
  4. Disconnections from Childhood Trauma
  5. Disconnection from Status and Respect
  6. Disconnection from the Natural World
  7. Disconnection from a Hopeful or Secure Future
  8. The Real Role of Genes and Brain Changes

RESISTING DEPRESSION & ANXIETY

Conversely, if the problem is disconnection, it only makes sense that the ingredients for successful coping with depression and anxiety would be “Reconnection”.  This is the theme of Part III of the book.

  1. Reconnection to Other People
  2. Reconnection and Social Prescribing
  3. Reconnection and Meaningful Work
  4. Reconnection to Meaningful Values
  5. Reconnection with Sympathetic Joy and Overcoming the Addition to the Self
  6. Reconnection by Acknowledging and Overcoming Childhood Trauma
  7. Reconnection by Restoring the Future

CONCLUSION

While each person must make their own choices about their own history and treatment for depression and anxiety Hari does provide a rich list of alternatives to consider.  While medications are a matter for patients to consider with their doctor, it just makes sense that a  broader strategic approach to common mental health matters may increase the likelihood for relief.


Hari, Johann.  Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression–and the Unexpected Solutions, 2018.

Welcome!

Welcome to Shoreline Counselor, LLC’s website. Formerly known as Southshore Counselor in Trenton and St. Joseph, Michigan, the name change represents my move to Muskegon in the summer of 2017.

My office is located in the Shoreline Church of Christ’s building at 525 W. Barney Ave., Muskegon, MI 49444, where I also serve as the preaching minister of the congregation.

My purpose is to provide the counseling support of a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist to individuals, couples and families in the Muskegon area.  As I begin updating the website I will also be taking new clients in the new year.

Limitations

“A man’s gotta know his limitations” says Harry Callahan.  The admonition makes sense  as one crosses the fine line between competence to incompetence.  Dirty Harry remarks frequently about the incompetence he sees in his superiors making for some great one-liners.

Sometimes people are advanced up the ladder of success only to find that their previous, stellar performance has little to do with the challenges they face in their new role.  Known as the Peter Principle, they fail because sufficient consideration was not given to whether or not they were indeed competent for the demands of the advanced position.

Similarly, the Icarus Syndrome describes the super-competent person who exceeds expectations at every level and knows it, exhibiting a confidence, self-assurance and hubris that borders on narcissism.   These people advance quickly without the necessary emotional and psychological discipline that empowers them to endure the stresses that come with added responsibilities.  Like Icarus who fell to his death because he flew too closely to the sun, their failures can be cataclysmic.

Through education, life-experience, training and discipline it is so important to develop a wisdom that is able to examine one’s self, to discern between good and bad counsel and to keep praise and criticism in perspective.  Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits for Highly Effective People offers a great model for proceeding through life with these reality checks based upon one’s values.  A man does need to know his limitations but he must test them and, in many cases, exceed them.

 

SEEING BEYOND LIMITATIONS

At the other end of the spectrum is the motivational challenge to “Reach for the stars”.  My inspiration for this article came when I happened to catch a recent commercial for a lumber store!

I loved the ingenuity of their presentation, taking a job that might be perceived as common, every-day work and catapulting it to a level of second-string astronaut that inspires, challenges and celebrates the value of the individual…the kind of person we’re looking for in our company.  Great commercial!

CONCLUSION

Navigating through life requires the kinds of skills that are able to deal with limitations both from without one’s self as well as within.  At other times opportunities arise that allow us to exceed limitations.  Sometimes the most limiting of all limitations are those we create for ourselves; i.e., those little voices within that tell us we’re not good enough, not smart enough or not gifted enough.

The truth is that this inner battle is the locus for the power of the Gospel found in the first and second Beatitudes that form the basis for most recovery programs.  In the face of a “Higher Power” who knows no limitations outside of the human heart we are immediately confronted by our own incompetence to save ourselves.  The ultimate cosmic paradox rests in this observation by the apostle Paul:  “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent….” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).

Buckets

For most of us a bucket is defined pragmatically as “a typically cylindrical vessel for catching, holding, or carrying liquids or solids”. Perhaps coupled with the colloquial expression “kick the bucket” to describe death, the idea of a “bucket list” to describe a pail full of tasks one wishes to accomplish before dying was popularized by the 2007 movie: “The Bucket List.

This unique list of specific accomplishments that an individual hopes to experience or accomplish before they can no longer do them is probably a product of a free society.  Individuals who struggle to meet their daily needs probably don’t dwell much upon what they want to do before they die.  The priority is making it through each day and waking up the next morning.

When we are young and optimistic about the future we don’t really think much about what we want to do before we die.  So, the entire project holds little interest because we have the whole world ahead of ourselves.  However, in time, our bucket lists can be quite extensive.  Travel to distant lands, financial accomplishments, personal goals and dreams all materialize on this list that has the potential to become ever expanding and inclusive.  At this stage of life our ‘bucket list’ has a tendency to grow as we experience more of
life and appreciate the world around us and within ourselves.

However, in my own observations of human behavior over the years I’ve begun to notice an interesting thing about bucket lists: the bucket seems to get smaller as we grow older.

For some, this may mean that they were able to accomplish most of the things on their lists during their lifetime, meaning there are fewer remaining things for them to keep on this list.  They have stopped adding to the list and, perhaps, establish a final goal of accomplishing everything that remains.

For others, it means that their desires for accomplishment begin to wane as they lose interest in the dreams and ambitions of their younger days.  In fact, it would seem that this list is more easily misplaced or even forgotten as we age.

In one sense this can be very sad.  At one extreme we can imagine someone whose life has become devoted to accomplishing everything on their list.  Once the list is finished, the next logical question is: “Now what?”  At the extreme we can imagine someone finding that their purpose in life has now ceased to exist.  I don’t think there are many people in this category…or, could I be wrong?

The writer of Ecclesiastes–most commonly believed to be King Solomon in his final days–had lived life to the max to experience everything “under the sun” and to uncover the secret to happiness and contentment (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18).   His conclusion?
Meaningless!

What a tragedy!  To have lived life to the fullest, experiencing everything the world has to offer only to conclude it was a waste of time, like a crazy man in a field chasing after the wind.  Of course the Byrds version of the popular 1955 Pete Seeger song, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” capitalized on this theme based upon Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.  I’ve often wondered if people understood the context within which these words were written more than 3,000 years ago.

CONCLUSION

In the end, it seems to me that bucket lists are useful when they point towards something greater than one’s self.  As we age we begin to appreciate our finite nature. We also begin to realize that the author of Ecclesiastes actually had it right for life lived “under the sun” without a view of what lies beyond.  Having eternity planted in one’s heart is more a source of despair than encouragement leading to a type of epicureanism or existentialistic way of viewing life.

As I, myself, age and begin the process of attending more funerals than weddings I have also had the humble experience of observing my own parents as they have aged.  In fact, mom and I talked about buckets recently and how they seem to get smaller as fewer things of this world capture the imagination.  What is happening is that those things of this world are being replaced by a longing to be where my father is, in heaven, looking into the face of God as He wipes the tears away (Revelation 21:4): the ultimate bucket list for which there is great worth in living and in dying!

 

 

Insanity

We have all heard the insanity quote before.

We’ve probably quoted it ourselves as we observe the behavior of others.

We rarely quote it about our own personal behaviors because, well, that would be insane!  Why would I do something like that?

The Urban Dictionary defines “Insanity” as “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

And yet, that is our nature, isn’t it?  It’s certainly a part of the ‘disease’ of addictive behaviors…”just one more time!” and it is at the core of the relentless pursuit of perfection: the belief that getting it right is only one tweak away.

When it comes to human behavior it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking “more of the same” will bring about better results.  The logic goes something like this:

  1. At least once before, when you acted inappropriately, I responded with a word or behavior that caused you to stop acting inappropriately.
  2. Logically, I deduce that this word or behavior must have contributed in an important way to your decision to change your behavior.
  3. Hence, I conclude that applying the same word or behavior to your inappropriate behavior should have precisely the same effect every time.
  4. Yet, I observe that the greater frequency wth which I apply this remedy, the less likely you are to comply with my word or demand.
  5. Conclusion: I must apply the remedy with greater intensity (e.g., yelling, screaming, sky writing, billboard advertising) to help you pay better attention  whenever I apply the corrective response to your inappropriate behavior.

I’ve observed this occasionally when people try to communicate with each other but do not share a common language between them.   A tell-tale sign of an American tourist in a foreign country is his belief that understanding will occur when he speaks English more loudly, slowly or dramatically.

So many times this “more of the same’ mentality is subconscious.  We don’t even realize it when we are doing it.  When we do catch ourselves, we sometimes blow past the warning signs and continue to operate on the belief that I must speak more clearly or more loudly one more time…then they will understand!

EVERYBODY’S INSANE!

The reality is that this ‘insanity’ quote applies to most of us most of the time.  Positively, it adds predictability to life and consistency to the many dances of behavior in which we all engage.  A quality of problem solvers is the ability to work something until success is achieved based upon a belief that the goal is within the realm of possibility…in spite of a plethora of failures.

However, there are times when we cross that fine line between regular, predictable behaviors that build trust in human systems and relationships into the realm of the dysfunctional, toxic, enduring,  patterns that provide their own bizarre sense of security.  Here are some examples that come to mind:

  1. Abusive relationships where the abused, secure in their miserable state, are afraid of change because of the insecurity and unpredictability that freedom portends.  The tactics of the abuser never change, rather, they become increasingly intense (i.e., more of the same) with every expression of dissatisfaction by the abused.
  2. CEO’s who see their company hurdling to market insignificance but are afraid to innovate and re-think their business model to catch the next wave of customer-based needs, interests and desires.  To coin a phrase of Tom Peters,
    there are those who learn to ‘thrive on the chaos’ of the modern marketplace and those who will be buried by it.
  3. Many churches see the next generation slipping through their own fingers but they are afraid to do what it takes to instill a thriving faith.  Fear rules as they are afraid of losing their salvation by tinkering with established, comfortable patterns that lost their relevance on the previous generation years ago are now proving their tone deafness to the cries of the next one.
  4. School systems that see the evolving needs of their neighborhoods yet refuse to shift their organizational structures to anticipate needs that will facilitate student progression.
  5. Government bureaucratic systems that change only when incentivized by lucrative compensations or threatened with severe consequences.  All bureaucratic inertia strives towards self-preservation and system maintenance, avoiding change at all costs  and eschewing innovation by dis-incentivizing the mechanisms for doing so.

HOW’S THAT BEEN WORKIN’ FOR YA’?

Someone, at some point, must step forward to ask the elegantly simple questions such as Dr. Phil’s “How’s that workin’ for ya’?”  For the therapist we look for the family dance where everyone knows their part and plays it out predictably every time the family–or a member of the family–moves into it’s crushingly devastating cycles of painful interactions.  Close alliances with truth telling confidants can prove helpful for discerning the patterns and offering interventions to break up systems, initiating new, hopefully, healthier cycles.

CONCLUSION

If insanity is defined as “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result” then we all must plead partial insanity because of the benefits we derive from it.  At the same time, the desire for security can lead us to more of the same behaviors that hold within them the potential for dysfunction that can be troubling to marriages, families and other organizational systems.

Awareness is the key.  If we are critical of others who exhibit the signs of our definition of insanity, yet are not aware of our own tendency–and even, need–to do the same, we may find ourselves actually “in a state of mind which prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction” due to an illness of the mind.  Actually, Jesus said it best:

How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:4-5)

Reboot!

A friend of mine was investigating his home heating system.  It was making a terrible squeaking noise.  Fearing a fan motor that was going Dirty-Furnace-Fanbad he dissected the necessary components, cleaned them, put them back together and then hit the power switch.

Nothing.

Pilot would not lite.  Fan would not come on.  No hum.  No noise.  Nothing.

Concerned that he must have missed some detail he repeated the cleaning process another time or two.  Same result: nothing.

In the dead of winter this is not good; so, he called a technician to diagnose the problem and offer a solution.  When the technician arrived he reached around the side of the fan motor where the reset button was located.  He pushed the button.  Suddenly, everything fired up.  Problem solved…except he was still needing a new motor.  The terrible noise was back.

resetWith computers we call them reboots: “If all else fails, reboot!”

Modems and routers, power tools and electric motors…many appliances have reset or reboot buttons.  Why?  Well, sometimes commands get crossed, power brown-outs or surges occur and the engineers build in a simple mechanism that shorts out before the motor or appliance is destroyed; the computer reboots to straighten out software conflicts or memory overloads.  It is a means of putting everything back on track and to protect more expensive components from destructive overloads.

Rebooting Life

Life is filled with resets or reboots as well.  Personally, we need new year resolutions to help kick us off the couch and into healthier living.  New days offer new opportunities to change routines, alter bad behavior patterns, create new opportunities or to simply settle down and center our lives to face new challenges.

Many changes we can do on our own, privately.  Other changes may require another friend with whom to confide, to hold us accountable,  to give us alternative ideas or suggestions or to just listen as we work through our own thoughts and feelings to get motivated.  Some changes are best made in a group setting with others to cheer us on as we reboot aspects of our lives to lose weight, stop a bad habit or instill a new value that changes the priorities of our lives.

The truth is that rebooting or resetting seems to be a consistent reality in all areas of life.  From the changing of the seasons to the ‘circle of life’ there are times when it is good to start over, to refresh and to give it another shot.

Hence, this dynamic can be true for individuals, groups, couples, families, etc.   It’s just good to make a fresh start now and then.  When the challenges seem more complex than expected or when those changes effect other members of a family or one’s partner it is sometimes good to consult with someone who specializes in communication and behavior change such as a marriage and family therapist.

 

Helping people overcome obstacles, manage transitions and reach potentials.