A Question That Will Change Your Life

I was sitting with a teenage client of mine supporting him through a tough situation at home that will likely not change in the near future.

I find one of the most frustrating things about having teens and children for clients is that as much work we do in the therapy room, their life situation usually doesn’t change much without significant parental involvement. And that doesn’t happen often.

So, I see my job with my teen clients as teaching them skills that they can use to handle their situations now in a way that supports them in healing and growing into caring and self-reflective adults.

In most cases the teen wants his outer situation to change – it won’t. He wants to move out – he can’t right now. He wants things to be different than they are – not going to happen any time soon.

Knowing this, my only leverage is with him. The leverage always exists inside of my client.

I used to ask my clients, “What’s the lesson for you here.” This sometimes leads teens to say things like, “Not to trust anyone” or “That my parents suck.” Not really the direction I’m wanting to guide them in.

So instead, I recently asked one of my teen clients, “How can you use this situation to make you a better person?

(I use the phrase “better person” here intentionally. Some people reading this won’t like the word “better” because it may imply that this teen is not fine the way he is now. I believe we all seek to improve ourselves in some way, and I want him to see clearly that he has choices to lead a life full of positive possibilities if¬† he wants. He has a choice. I want him to know that he can take this really crappy situation and learn something useful from it.

He stared at me and didn’t know what to say. There was no room for him to be dismissive about what I’ve asked, and my question prevents us from going into a negative spiral that isn’t supportive to healing.

I know how I’d answer this question for him. I see all kinds of ways that he can use what he’s going through to learn, grow, and heal himself. But I stay quiet.

He responds after thinking about this for a long while, and we proceed to have a very rich and meaningful conversation about his responsibility for his life and his feelings.

How can you use this situation to make you a better person?

A variation on this question is “What can you learn from this situation to make you a better person?”

Going forward, whatever happens in my life, I’m going to ask this question of myself and move ahead with healing.

This is my challenge for you as well.

Slowing Down

Slowing Down

On the radio the other day, I heard someone say, “Information in real-time is the future.”

Hmmm…Why I wonder? Our culture is speeding up obviously, but I’ve often contemplated about the need (or, more accurately, want) for information right now. The obsession in our culture for late-breaking news and being the first to know about – anything.

Do we, as a public, really want info right now all the time? Why? And what does that exactly mean? What are the consequences?

I’d like to say here that I’m a total tech nerd, and I love all that technology has allowed us to accomplish.

And like me, you may know people that constantly check their phones when at dinner with others and in the middle of active conversations are distracted by their push notifications. All because of a false idea that we need to know what’s happening instantly and as it’s happening.

Might we be losing our impulse control and patience? Why does this even matter?

What happens if we turn off the push notifications and let things wait?

There’s a palpable difference between being with someone distractedly and really being with that person fully.

I’ve thought about this for a long time and decided to write a little about this now because my husband and I recently returned from a trip where we were almost virtually unplugged. We had very spotty access to internet so checking email sporadically was the best we could manage. And that was a welcome change from our hectic LA lives.

We were able to slow down, take our time, and enjoy ourselves. Dinners lasted 3-4 hours with no one rushing us out of the restaurant. We walked miles each day with no where to really be other than the next site on our list. The quality of our time spent felt much more rich with no thought about what was happening online.

I don’t need information in real-time, which is often superficial. I actually don’t want information in real-time. I want connection, authenticity, thoughtfulness, depthful discussion and conversation, and most of all a conscious awareness of how I live my life and how I chose to spend my time.