alfreddepew

Archive for the ‘Realtionship’ Category

Shift Happens: Guest Post by Janet Frood

In couples, Dialogue, Family, Realtionship on November 30, 2010 at 2:14 am
Janet Frood,

Janet Frood, CPP, ORSCC, PCC

It’s official.  Our daughter has moved away to start University.  In one day our family system shifted from four to three — at least those of us living at home.  It’s making me think on a very personal level about system theory and patterns that we witness in teams experiencing change.

System theory says that every time someone leaves or joins a system (family, team or group) that the organic nature of the system changes.  There is an automatic adjustment and recalibration.  Often times the changes happen at an unconscious level.  If the system needs certain roles or relies on certain skills, inevitably those remaining on the team will step into unoccupied roles.  This assures the continuity of the system (functional and emotional).

In families, just like in teams, each person plays a formal role.  In this case our daughter is the oldest child.  As the oldest child, she has played certain roles in all of our lives.  She’s been the responsible one assuring that tasks get done on time and according to plan.  She’s also the tradition holder assuring that holidays unfold with certain reliable ceremony.  She values relationships and always spent time with each of us individually.

In our family system we have two nested systems – two parents and two kids. As parents, we are still parents of two yet the way we’ll interact with them has now changed.  It’s like we have become a virtual team as one of our members will only be connected virtually through Skype, text, FB and phone calls.  The home team of three will shift and change.  We’ll create new patterns and routines that will work for our dynamic.

When family systems change, just like with teams, it’s important to talk about the obvious changes – the ones you can anticipate.  When one member is gone and their strengths and skills leave with them, it’s important to plan for how you’ll mange the changes.  Speaking about the changes is important so that there are no assumptions.  In our case we had a gender balance – two males and two females.  Now, I’m the only female.  Who knows what that means for our family dynamic.  Who will watch the reality dance shows with me?

It’s also important to pay attention to the subtle signals that will emerge; the things that people are experiencing and not talking about.  Our son is already demonstrating more of a need to be close to us and hug us.  As Mom I know he’s giving us the hugs that were reserved for his sister.   It seems that by being the “only child” he’s already taking the opportunity to be seen and heard more as he often followed his sisters’ lead.  This phenomenon is common on teams where people will quietly assume new informal roles held by a former colleague.  If the system needs nurturing then others will start to demonstrate it in new ways.  That’s exactly what our little system is already doing.

It’s a fascinating time.  There are lots of adjustments ahead.  However, I hold a sense of confidence in knowing that we’ll calibrate to find a new balance and still be connected with each other – just in new and different ways.

For more information about Janet Frood and her work, please visit her website:  http://horizonleadership.ca/

The Problem with Obedience

In communities, Dialogue, Family, Realtionship, World Work on October 25, 2010 at 4:47 am

Guest Post by Kathleen Mangiafico, Relationship Specialist at Farmington Valley YMCA

Are you a person who doesn’t like to read ALL the directions to a game, and you just want to learn as you go?  I am.  Sometimes I just feel like it’s too much to absorb at once.  There’s too many rules to follow.  I’d rather just stick with the attitude of curiosity, see how the game plays out, than feel frustrated with the idea of understanding it all.  Interestingly, this isn’t how many of us approach other aspects of our lives.  We NEED to know the exact way to go about living and if we start to get frustrated….well, that’s when the real trouble starts.

Obedience.  We love it!  Obedient people are easy to get along with, helpful, and generally pleasant to be around.  Obedience is an emotional gift that some people are born with by nature.  Historically however, the parent/child relationship model we’ve been working from is to nurture obedience too.  …And there is a problem that comes with being JUST obedient….it’s called the tank of resentment!  So how does obedience affect our view on life?  How does it affect our personality?  What kind of affect does obedience have on our relationships?

We are currently in what I call the “cultural and generational collision”.  When I was a kid (I’m almost 42), and certainly when you go further back in time, children did as they were told.  They followed the rules!  Children were “seen and not heard” and the old adage was “spare the rod, spoil the child”.  Obedience was consciously taught in the home, schools, and through organized religion.  Many generations later, we are coming to learn the downside of this misinterpreted philosophy and are experiencing the repercussions of this type of living.  Yet, we still have not defined how to approach life and all of our relationships from a more balanced approached.

Balance.  There are other terms we keep throwing around like organic, healthy, holistic, etc..  But what we really want to move towards is balanced living.  Balanced living cannot be judged based on a particular food you eat, whether you are being rational at the moment, or if we are completely “whole” within our relationships all the time.  Although we cognitively understand this concept, we are all conditioned to live based on obedience.  And guess what?  The human race is collectively sick of being obedient!  This is evident just by watching pop culture TV, listening to the radio, or watching the dreadful news.  The new norms and values to life are blurry at best.  Childhood and adult emotional disorders, mental illness, divorce, addictions of all kinds (food, drugs, alcohol), avoidance behavior (work a-holics, exercise a-holics, shop a-holics…), and disconnected relationships are the fabric of our lives.

Balanced living is a continuum.  Balance is a moment in time when everything seems to be falling exactly in line with what we deem to be perfect (a.k.a.)…  A peak moment!  For every other moment, we are either left or right of center!  To live a balanced life, you have to be aware of what’s really important to you and who it involves, yet still find an appreciation and value for all else that you would prefer to be different.

So how does obedience affect our view on life?

How does it affect our personality?

What kind of affect does obedience have on our relationships?

Approaching life from just the attitude of obedience will cause you to be marginalized….ignored!  As a kid, you will be loved and valued by your parents and teachers, but you will be tormented by your peers.  As an adult, your voice will not be heard in your relationships and you will start to lose value in yourself.  You will continue to only listen and follow directions and you won’t be able to make decisions!  Human nature dictates that we need to know what someone stands for.  So, if you don’t speak up and use your voice when needed, someone else will use theirs for you!

If you are obedient by nature, here’s some pointing towards growing into the whole YOU when in relationship:

If you are a kid or growing young adult:

  • Stand up for yourself on the playground!  Make sure your voice is part of the decision making for how the game is going to be played.  Stand up for yourself in the hallways of middle school. Accept that some people won’t like it and it’s not the end of the world!  Choose to leave the relationship (when possible) if your voice is not respected or valued.  Stand in the fire when needed and hold your own.  Don’t run.  Over time, you will earn the respect of your peers for letting them know who you are.  Accept whatever consequences come from authority.  Leave room for forgiveness to repair relationships.
  • In your relationship with Mom, Dad, teacher or another caretaker, don’t let obedience hold back your voice.  Sometimes the adults in your life are too controlling.  Try to understand that they are unaware of how they are treating you.  It’s not intentional.  It’s just learned attitudes and behaviors.  In the moment of disagreement, accept their rank and privilege and do what is necessary.  When the situation is calm, go to them to express how you feel using “I statements”. ex.) “I feel ____when ____happens.”  Accept that you won’t always feel satisfied, but at the very least, you will have expressed yourself and not stored your feelings in a tank of resentment.  Overtime, some of the adults will start to hear your voice and will respect it.

If you are an adult:

  • Assert yourself in your close relationships!  i.e. your marriage, co-workers, bosses, extended family, and friends.  Stop avoiding conflict by choosing avoidance behaviors such as:  closet eating, closet drinking, doing drugs, working, exercising, cleaning or shopping too much. Stand in the lions roar!!  Don’t let his/her roar scare you.  Face the lion and hold your ground. Take space if needed and let the lion know.  When the atmosphere is calm, express yourself in a calm, deliberate manner by using “I statements”.  Accept that the lion won’t always like it immediately.  They need time to understand your roar.
  • If you are an adult who grew up in a time of obedience, then ask yourself, “How do I show up  in my role as parent, teacher or caretaker?”  Are you controlling and a bully? …Or do you tend to be a catastrophic push over, only to end up yelling and screaming?  Get clear on your expectations of your kids.  Have a family/class/group meeting to express them.  Allow the kids to express their desires too.  Get aligned on the expectations.  See where you can flex to meet the children’s wants, especially as they get older.  Hold boundaries when needed and be consistent.  Stop the negative verbal dialog.  Be aware of giving genuine praise and acknowledgment.

Obedience is a necessary attitude of life, but is extremely detrimental when used to please someone.  When using the attitude of obedience, think in terms of being obedient to The Relationship…not being obedient to the individual(s).  Result?  With much practice, three generations from now we will have redefined healthy, connected, sustainable individuals and relationships.  They will be co-arising, not co-dependent!

Questions/Thoughts To Ask Yourself When the Attitude of Obedience Shows Up

  • How will what I am about to Say or Do impact my relationship?
  • What Is Trying To Happen for the sake of the relationship?
  • What do I Need to Accept from the other person, that I would prefer to be different, for the sake of the relationship?
  • What Needs To Happen next for the sake of the relationship?

Kathleen Mangiafico, ORSCC is a Relationship Specialist.  Her expertise lies in working with diverse individuals, and other relational systems (youth groups, couples/families, businesses) and can be reached at kbmangiafico@sbcglobal.net

One Million Pounds of Fish

In Ecology, Work, World Work on October 24, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Chris Causey

Guest Post by Chris Causey, a professional mediator in Portland, Maine.

It is hard for me to imagine a world without fish.  I wish I could say that statement was linked to some scientific truth or recent data supporting the incalculable bounty of marine life but neither is true.  In fact we all know the seas are in trouble.  My relationship with fish and the sea itself has more to do with the nature of my imagination—the nature of my very soul, which is a watery place inhabited by sea creatures.  As a boy, I both loved whales and imagined I worked on tall ships hunting them.  At once I read about and studied various types of whales and also kept paintings of 19th century whaling scenes–gory scenes of men harpooning whales from open boats.  It was probably no mistake that in my young manhood, I worked as a commercial fisherman in Kodiak, Alaska–fished for six years and made my living as a deckhand on salmon, halibut, herring, crab and trawl boats.  I don’t know how many fish I contributed to killing, but I do know how exhilarated I was to participate in the hunt, the acquisition and the kill of those fish and crab.

Yet, even as I worked and made my livelihood on these boats, I related to the sea and its inhabitants in other ways, too.  The sight of porpoise dancing beneath our bow or a gray whale breaching in the distance used to fill my heart with such gladness, it’s hard to describe without sounding foolish or daft.  Once, when working on a salmon seiner, I watched two sea otters mating in some drifting bull kelp in the early morning, and was nearly beside myself.  They sort of rolled around, and I thought at first they were wrestling, then I saw the male’s piston thrust, the female’s smiling face, all in the rising and falling waves near the rocky shore, and I couldn’t help laughing.  I wished that I could turn to the multitudes and say, look at them making more otters–isn’t that the greatest thing you’ve ever seen in your life?  Any time something from below showed itself on the surface, whether shark, seal, or jumping salmon, my heart leapt for reasons I cannot entirely express.

So the idea that somehow the oceans are becoming sterile means for me, a loss that reaches to the very depths of my experience as a human being and a loss that transcends human experience.  Although I no longer make my living from the sea, my soul, my imagination and the oceans are somehow inextricably linked.  My shore for where the human meets the non-human is literally and figuratively where the sea meets the land.  It has taken me a long time to realize that what’s down there beneath the waves is both me and way beyond me, and for that, its remaining rich, fertile, diverse, and thriving is a calling of the highest order.

Recently I returned to Kodiak for a short visit.  There I met a man and his son, also visiting, who were looking for a place to spend the night.  I shared my accommodations, and the man, call him Tim, told me about his former work as a boat captain in the Bering Sea.  Now the vice president of a software company, he was then one of the first captains to explore the cod fishery in the western Aleutians.  He said he convinced a fish processing company to have one of its processing ships follow his boat, and there was a lot of risk in that, not knowing whether there were any fish out there or not.  One day, as the cod were schooled to spawn in Nazan Bay off Atka Island, he caught a million pounds.  One day.  He said he had to drag a net full of codfish behind his boat through the treacherous Amlia pass to the processor because the processor’s captain would not take the vessel through the pass to meet him.  He also said it was the eeriest day he had ever fished.  The Bering sea, which is hardly ever calm, was like poured lead and the comet Hyakutake was in the sky.  He’d seen wind clock at over one hundred and fifty miles per hour, wind that you simply can’t believe is being churned up by nature, but that day the wind and water were so flat it made him suspect something horrible might be coming.   We stood shoulder to shoulder in front of a huge map of Alaska, taped to the wall.  “I plugged the processor,” he said smiling, but without pride.  “One million pounds in one day.  There was nothing left for us to do but start back to Seattle.  My deckhands put a charcoal grill on the back deck.  They were bowing to me and saying “not worthy not worthy,” because I had just caught a million pounds and we all had made a ton of money.

The grill was going and that comet was in the sky and I’m feeling about as great as I can feel, looking out at the sea, which can tear you up, and then to top it off, as it grew darker, Korovin Volcano on Atka began erupting just enough to see sparks of orange shooting out of it.”

I knew what it was like to watch a net or a crab put come up from the bottom full of fish, the sense of wonder and acquisition, the absolute jubilation of catching so much fish.  I knew if I were a deckhand on that boat, I would have been bowing with his other deckhands, celebrating, and I know too the sense of loss I felt, knowing that in one day one boat took a million pounds of cod fish from the sea.  I don’t consider my position ambivalent at all.  I am a predator, the most capable of all predators but recognizing too that is a grave responsibility.  I have used the words stewardship and heard it used in many contexts and understand that stewardship for hunters and fisherman cannot be a smokescreen to hide some shadowy need or hidden agenda.  It means recognizing our primordial desire to hunt and fish and take and kill and be absolutely successful doing so and looking at that closely, reconciling our need to prove ourselves and provide with a greater sense of confidence that we need not actually catch or kill the fish and that there is more than a game of chance, drive and desire as the biomass shrinks

In his book, The Gift, Lewis Hyde wrote the following: “Ecology as a science began at the end of the nineteenth century, an offshoot of the rising interest in evolution.  Originally the study of how animals survive in their environments, one of ecology’s first lessons was that, beneath all the change in nature, there are steady states characterized by cycles.  Every participant in the cycle literally lives off the others with only the ultimate energy source, the sun, being transcendent.  Widening the study of ecology to include man means to look at ourselves as part of nature again, not its lord.  When we see that we are actors in natural cycles, we understand that what nature gives to us is influenced by what we give to nature.  So the circle is a sign of an ecological insight as much as of gift exchange.  We come to feel ourselves as one part of a large self-regulating system.”

Science is about not knowing and wanting badly to know.  Fishing is about pursuing and wanting badly to acquire.  The two share similar emotions of passion and drive and the limitations of where we are now vs. where we want to be.  The deadliest catch is so popular in part because of mysterious acquisition and part because of what the men on those boats endure as they go after crab, but its flaw is that it is shot produced and shown in order to appeal on a completely human scale.  What is missing is a moral vector, the perspective that includes the non-human and beyond human, the awe and humility and veneration owed to nature because it is our source not only to what we know, but to what lies beyond our knowing.

When asked if he were a religious man, Albert Einstein answered as follows:  “Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that behind all the discernible laws & connections, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable.  Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion.  To that extent, I am in fact, religious.”

My concern lies somewhere at the heart of what Lewis Hyde and Albert Einstein are intimating.  We are part of something, not lord of it, and our connection to this something (nature) is also our connection to all the mystery that lies behind it.  It includes hunting, taking, and killing and acquiring, but it also includes relating in a way that guards against arrogance, mindless consumption and exploitation.  Otherwise the watery part of the human soul is apt to become dry and brittle.

For more information about Chris Causey and his work, visit: http://causeymediations.com/about-chris-causey/

Since feeling is first

In couples, Realtionship, Relationship with Self, World Work on October 23, 2010 at 12:53 am

Painting, acrylic on paper: Untitled, 2007, Alfred DePew

(Reprinted from the Vancouver Observer)

Canadians often put me in mind of Dorothy Parker’s quip about Katharine Hepburn, who, she once said, “ran the gamut of emotions from A to B.”

Some weeks ago, at dinner with my friend Hal, he said he had been feeling emotional.

“Which one?” I asked.

“What do you mean?” he said.

“You know—happy? Sad? Pissed off?

“I don’t know—emotional,” he said.

Then we changed the subject.

As North American white guys, we tend to avoid direct expression of feeling in day-to-day conversation.

Unless, of course, the subject is hockey.

And yet, my stiff upper lip has been known to quiver. I have the kind of face that registers everything—worry, delight, perplexity, and suspicion.

I am terrible at poker.

I’ve had to learn about feelings—the hard way, by being tyrannized by them. Had I been born in southern Italy, I’d have had no problem. Or so I imagine. But I was raised in St. Louis, whose dominant culture was Anglo and Teutonic, despite the French name.

At sixteen, I began to suspect that feeling was not just the root of the problem but the problem itself. My first therapist was a psychiatrist, a bona fide Freudian analyst of the Viennese School. When he’d ask how I was, I’d say “anxious.” I didn’t have a very wide emotional vocabulary in those days, and I don’t recall Herr Doktor as being much help.

Twenty years and four therapists later, I heard myself say that I’d know when I was ready to stop therapy when I no longer had any feelings.

Then I laughed. So did my therapist. It was our next to last session.

What had brought me to that fourth and final therapist was grief. When my father died, I was overwhelmed, nearly paralyzed. My father and I were not close. It didn’t make any sense. It was wholly irrational. And yet, as I came to see, grief had its own kind of logic. My friend, the poet Anne Rubicam Witten, pointed me to Gilgamesh, Innana, Persephone, and Orpheus—stories about the decent to the Underworld. Stories that acted as a map in this new territory of grieving.

Therapists could only take me so far. For the rest, I needed the poets.

Robert Bly used to talk about the grief at the core of the male psyche. He spoke about it as an initiation, the “time of ashes,” essential to the evolution of a man’s mind and heart and soul.

Not that grief is particular to men. My friend Monica insists that at the heart of every silence lies some form of grief.

What Hal chose not to talk about that evening at dinner was his mother’s death and the fact that he’d recently declared bankruptcy.

Emotional indeed.

What then is the language of feeling? Not just one, surely. Proclamations of love. Lamentation. Sidelong comments. Innuendo. Carping. Sarcasm. Body language. A glance. Those looks.

I often work with couples who want more intimacy, better communication, and less fighting. Much of my work involves training them to become exquisitely aware of what  lives in the space between them. Feelings. As they become aware of the impact of what they say and do, they have more choice about how they speak and act in order to keep the relationship space clear.

When I began with one couple, the atmosphere between them was so charged that even an intended compliment could start a fight. Gradually, as they became more aware of how they were interacting and what feelings they were generating, they began trying new ways of communicating—at different times, with clearer intentions, using more neutral language. Then they noticed the impact on their children and how they were treating each other. All this took slowing down and paying attention. Giving themselves time to feel.

Another couple, men who’ve been partners for eight years, wanted to stop avoiding topics they simply couldn’t discuss. So we began with what they could discuss, always pointing to the space between them and what was there. That they loved each other was clear. That the relationship was skilled at any number of tasks was also clear. And so we built on that. Some weeks later during a session, one acknowledged the other, and he began to tear up. A hard place for men, even gay men. He made a joke and looked away. I asked them to pause and invited them to sit with what was happening. In the ensuing silence, they held each other’s gaze, tears in their eyes. This was the intimacy they were seeking to reclaim. A sweet, tender, dangerous vulnerability. And they’d learned to create the safety to experience it.

And what of our relationship to ourselves, the time we give to our own feelings?

All week, I have been busy coaching couples, setting up individual calls with my certification students in Europe, interviewing and assessing new clients. Relationship work. Then all of a sudden I am exhausted. I have stepped over my own feelings of admiration, frustration, impatience, love, envy, and longing.

They clamour for my attention.

So I close the computer, lie down and let everything surface.

After a while, I take my notebook and pen and give myself a half hour to listen and write down what I need to let myself know.

The poem from which I borrow my title is, after all, a love poem by e.e. cummings.

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

–the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says
we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

It’s the thing that flutters up behind the eyes, a movement in the heart before language.

And then … the words to say it.

Next of Kin

In Family, Realtionship on October 22, 2010 at 5:35 pm

The Mississippi River

(Reprinted from the Vancouver Observer)

When I get to the Intensive Care Unit in Des Peres, Missouri, I find Pat wired to several machines that beep softly. Her eyes are open. She recognizes me, but has difficulty speaking. The beginnings of sentences come out all right, but the ends are chewed and garbled. Her jaw moves up and down involuntarily. I have to listen hard and ask her to repeat. Her breathing is laboured. I don’t want to make her talk more than she has to.

She doesn’t know what happened to her. All her friend in the retirement community said when I called was something about her kidneys. Something about being incoherent.

“Well,” Pat says, “Here—we—are. Nothing—to—do—but—wait—I—guess.”

I imagine she’d shrug if she could.

“This is a fine how do you do,” she might say if speaking were easier.

The nurse, Dave, explains that Pat has been on a ventilator, but has improved, and is now breathing on her own. Improved compared to when they brought her in. My sense is that she is dying.

He asks if I am her closest living relative, and I have to think a moment. Pat is my mother’s cousin. I run it through my mind: an only child, no children of her own, no nieces or nephews. I suppose I am. Pat had been my grandfather’s favorite niece. For some reason, my mother never liked her.

I met Pat when she attended a reading I gave in St. Louis some years ago. She came up to me afterwards and introduced herself. Nearly every trip since then, we’ve managed to have lunch or meet at Schneidhorst’s for breakfast. I would always invite my mother to come along, but she’d grow evasive and decline.

Pat and I have had similar lives. We are both writers, both worked for a time in advertising, and neither of us married. Even today, St. Louisans view unmarried people with condescending sympathy, and a certain amount of suspicion. And envy, I think. Our independence, perhaps. As if we had cheated, somehow. Shirked some essential duty of adulthood.

When she finished college at the start of World War II, Pat decided to join the Navy. She went in to tell her mother first.

“If it had been me, I’d have joined up long ago,” her mother said, without even looking up from her knitting.

The she told her father, who threw a fit—“No daughter of mine!” … That sort of thing.

Pat earned the rank of lieutenant and trained officers in Washington, DC. She was often assigned to carry secret orders—on the train up and down the East Coast, and by plane to California.

When I saw her last March, she showed me an album and told me stories about the young men and women in the photos—where each was taken, what they had eaten at picnics, who was in love with whom.

She carried top-secret orders for the Potsdam Conference and for Okinawa.

“And Hiroshima?” I asked. “What about Nagasaki? Did you carry those orders?”

“I don’t remember,” she said. “We were trained to forget.”

On the second day that I visit her in Intensive Care, she is neither asleep, nor entirely conscious. Her eyes are slightly open, but she’s not seeing me. I’ve brought a photograph of her favorite uncle, my grandfather, after whom I am named. I’d found it among the things my brother and sister and I had been going through the day before.

I stand by Pat’s bed, praying. I hum the old hymn “Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling.” It’s all I can think to do. I don’t want to wake her. She seems to be resting comfortably. Though her breathing is even more laboured than the day before, she is not struggling. She seems unafraid. Over the course of our friendship, I’ve learned that she’s a woman who goes to her Protestant church every Sunday, the most ordinary kind of religious observance. Conventional. There has never been a hint of rancor or resentment over my mother’s snubs or the complicated social strata of St. Louis. She never made a fuss over her independence. She showed a normal pride in her accomplishments as an advertising account executive and one of the founders of the St. Louis Women’s Advertising Club, which raised nearly twice the amount for charity one year as the Men’s Club.

She has lived by her own lights, followed her own mind and heart, always curious about the world. She doesn’t regret anything. At least not anything she’s willing to tell me about.

The doctor comes in to check on her and asks if I am her closest living relative. I reckon I am. There is no living will, nor anyone they know as Power of Attorney. That’s why they keep asking me. In cases like these, they put together an Ethics Committee to decide if treatment ought to be continued.

All I can say is what I see: my friend and second cousin, an independent woman of deep faith, unafraid, following her failing heart to peace and home.

Vancouver’s Dynamic Duo Produces a Film About Pioneering Couples Work (Reprinted from the Vancouver Observer)

In couples, Dialogue, Realtionship, World Work on July 5, 2010 at 6:06 am

Hedy & Yumi Schleifer

“Crossing the Bridge,” a documentary film about the work of Hedy and Yumi Schleifer, shows the power of skillful, deep work with couples in the context of a public workshop. What is striking is the level of intimacy, trust, and truth telling. Indeed the courage of the participants speaks to the radical, transformative nature of Imago Relationship Therapy, developed by Harville Hendrix.

On their return to Vancouver after participating in their second couples workshop, Dennis Ewasiuk and his wife, Anne Dobbie, had an idea. To make a film about Hedy and Yumi. The only glitch was that neither Ewasiuk nor Dobbie had ever made a film and had no idea where to start.

That didn’t stop them from approaching the Schleifers with the idea.The Schleifers were delighted; they’d always wanted someone to film them. They set a March date for a workshop in Vancouver. That was in January.

Now what?

Dennis contacted a film producer friend to find out about the process. “He moved the rock and got it rolling,” says Dennis. “He was like a mentor through the whole process.”

Then Hedy called and said she and Yumi had just met a woman in Miami, Robyn Symon, who made documentary films.

“When you have a vision or a goal, it’s amazing how things fall into place,” says Dennis. “I thought, OK, there’s a reason we’ve all come together. Once Symon was on board, the rock really started rolling.”

Symon in turn hired a great crew to film the March workshop, which, as fate would have it, was way over subscribed. “We had to turn people away,” says Anne, “and here we were worried we wouldn’t get even 15 couples.”

“Filming in a hotel space is not like a studio,” says Dennis. “We had to get the permissions and release forms worked out. Robyn wanted to talk to some of the couples ahead of time. Hedy and Yumi explained that people were not coming to be filmed; they were coming to do work on their relationships. Hedy said, ‘not to worry: the stars will emerge.’ And that’s what happened. People were tentative at the beginning. To help things out, we told anyone who didn’t want to be filmed to let us know. We put dots on nametags—20% at first. By noon people had forgotten there was even a film crew there. And in the afternoon, a lot of the dots were gone. In the end, out of 30 couples, only two or three didn’t sign a release form.”

Testament to the atmosphere of trust the Schleifers are able to create.

“They are so true to what they’re about,” says Anne. “They’re honest about their own struggles, and they bring that into workshops. You see them in action. They’re able to help others understand what’s going on and give them tools to move forward. The power struggle is normal, and that’s when many go their separate ways. Their mission is to connect couples.”

“Hedy is brilliant,” Anne continues. “She lights up the whole space.”

“When you learn Yumi’s story, you see his evolution as a partner and as a husband,” says Dennis. “In his 40s and 50s, Yumi was fairly non-communicative like a lot of us men. It was only after he went to a workshop with his wife that he took his engineer’s brain and realized that there was more to relationship than just showing up—you had to work at it. That gives an example and hope to other men.”

As Anne puts it, “Yumi fathers men and women into their best relationship.”

And that’s what happened for Anne and her husband. “At one point, quitting was an option for us,” explains Dennis.  “Now we have tools to work with. It’s no longer about whether or not to be in relationship. Quitting isn’t an option anymore.”

At times, producing the film was challenging for their marriage. The were undergoing a major house renovation and raising two children.  At one point, the four of them were living in a one-bedroom basement suite.

“We had to be strong in our relationship to follow through with this commitment,” says Dennis. “Once we rediscovered and reclaimed the love we had for each other—that was the power.”

“It was a huge creative force,” adds Anne. “We took on something we had no idea about, connected with people through collaboration and vision and belief.”

And the result?  An astonishing and deeply moving film.

Last October, “Crossing the Bridge” won Best Documentary at LA Femme Festival.

To order a DVD of “Crossing the Bridge,” visit: http://hedyyumi.org/ctbfilm.html

To find out more about Imago Relationship Therapy, visit: http://imagobc.com/

Dennis & Anne at the film's premier

Imago and Me: A Guest Post by Michael Cohen, psychotherapist & coach

In Realtionship, Uncategorized on March 9, 2010 at 3:17 am

Michael Cohen

Until I was trained as an Imago Relationship therapist, I never really knew if I was helpful to the couples that came to see me. I always did the best I could to mediate their conflicts and to make sure they each could learn about their role in the problems they were experiencing. Inevitably one person would feel like I was taking sides, even though I made every effort to stay neutral. In conversations with colleagues and in supervision groups, we all shared our frustrations with the couples therapy we were doing.

Seven years ago my partner Dan and I went to a weekend workshop called Getting The Love You Want, http://gettingtheloveyouwant.com/. It was one of the prerequisites to Imago therapist training. Both of us decided we wanted to be trained in this method and there was no better way to begin than to experience it for ourselves.

We were blown away by how helpful it was. We learned so much during that weekend, about ourselves and about the repetitive arguments and frustrations we were having. We also got a really clear sense of what it was that was limiting our intimacy together. We spoke our fears and were able to understand them within the context of our families of origin, or what we had experienced as children. It all made great sense and released a great surge of hopefulness for us.

Now I have been practicing Imago Therapy for 7 years with many couples, and I know that the work is helpful. I see the progress clearly and I am excited to pass along what I know to other people. Imago Relationship Therapy is a very psycho-educational approach. I like to call it relationship training, because for many people it is the first time they have ever been taught the art of and techniques of being in a partnership. Most people come to relationship with very unrealistic expectations and very few skills.

Rose and Shawn were one such couple. They had a perfectly lovely first year of life together, and then as happens, they began to deal with some conflicts. Shawn had been brought up to believe that he would meet a partner who would make him happy, someone who would never disappoint him. He was very invested in that after his childhood, which was filled with disappointments. His mother died when he was 10, leaving him with an overwhelmed father who quickly married a significantly younger woman. Shawn felt perpetually left out of this new family and retreated inside to a lonely and resigned place. When he met Rose, she offered a loving connection and a sense of loyalty that reminded Shawn of none other than his own mother. We call that his relationship Imago, or his unconscious idealized image of love.

As a result of this history, Shawn’s reacted to Rose’s differing needs and separate sense of self by getting frightened, becoming angry and accusing her of being unfaithful to him. He had not made any of the connections yet to his past, as most people don’t, until they begin to take responsibility for their feelings and reactions. Shawn, like many of us, needed safety, support and guidance to make those connections. He needed a trainer, if you will, to help him understand what was happening between he and Rose, and to discover new ways to relate. After some work, Shawn was able to make those connections and to learn new ways to deal with his feelings. Of course Rose had her work to do also. They are still in therapy together and they love the process.

Sometime people come into couples therapy seeking to change their partner. Few things are less productive or more frustrating. In Imago therapy, there is great emphasis placed on learning about and changing you. Some of the questions put before you in the course of this treatment/training are: What is your role in each conflict? What of your past is influencing your reaction to your partner? What are the challenges present for you to become a better partner? What old habitual responses do you need to look at and revise so they bring you what you want? How well do you attune to your partner’s needs?

The creators of Imago, Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt have created exercises and useful tools for couples to delve into this rich terrain. Self-discovery within the context of a relationship can be the most valuable of all personal growth.

One of the most helpful tools is called the Intentional Dialogue. It is a method of communicating that allows people to truly listen to each other. One of the foundational beliefs of Imago theory is that the core of most relationship difficulty is that people do not know how to communicate clearly (especially when it comes to feelings and needs) or to listen well. Once these skills are learned and practiced, many couples learn to solve many of their own conflicts by themselves.

Relationship can be so wonderful and at the same time, so difficult. We all need as much support as we can get to make them work well. The best support I have found, both as an individual, and as a therapist, is Imago Relationship Therapy. Check it out, and check out our new website as well: http://www.gaymalecouples.com/.Please feel free to get in touch with me if you have comments or questions. I love talking about Imago and about relationships.

Backstage at the Olympics: Going for the Gold in Marriage (Reprinted from the Vancouver Observer)

In business, couples, Realtionship on February 24, 2010 at 1:46 am

Aly & Jeff Pain with their sons Thomas & Kyle

It’s tough being an Olympic athlete. It’s even tougher being married to one. In fact, Aly Pain has asked her husband Jeff, Canadian Silver Medalist Skeleton racer, for a divorce more than once in the last several years.

And yet today, their marriage is stronger than ever.

“I’m a ridiculously stubborn person,” says Aly, a public speaker, trainer, and one of the first 70 systems coaches to be certified by the Center for Right Relationship. “ I don’t walk away from much. I’ll do what it takes. And there’s an essence of our marriage—something bigger and stronger than us—that wasn’t done, that said: you’re supposed to be together.”

And together, Jeff and Aly Pain have written a book, The Business of Marriage and Medals, about what they’ve learned.

“All of our messes and successes over a14 year period,” says Aly. “Everything we did wrong and what we did right—consciously or unconsciously—so we can be here today as a team.”

When I reach Aly by phone at her hotel in downtown Vancouver, she sounds tired. She has driven with their two boys from Calgary a few days earlier. They’ve come to see their Dad, a man the CBC has called “one of the most celebrated skeleton athletes in Canadian history,” make his last Olympic run. And today’s the day.

Aly has mixed feelings.

“Joy, sadness, grief—blechhh!” she says. “Sometimes it’s everything all at once. There’s a lot of me that wants it to be over. And yet winning in Italy was wonderful. How many can say they’ve been in three Olympics and finished in the top ten in all three? I’m also sad for Jeff and can’t imagine what this is like for him.

“There can only be one winner—the ultimate measure of one’s success is in sport. This is what he’s chosen.

“Until midnight tonight. Then he’s retired.”

The measure in sport doesn’t take into account the emotional and economic challenges Aly and Jeff Pain have faced. Only two percent of Canada’s Olympic athletes have kids.

“The Canadian Olympic Committee has never compiled statistics on mature athletes, and so have they’ve never really met their needs. The COC knew mature athletes were least pleased with funding but didn’t know why.”

When a 20-year-old gets an Olympic contract, “it’s like winning the lottery,” says Aly. “They may still be living at home with their parents. But when you’re in your 30s and have a family, it’s poverty level.”

What is it like for their children—Thomas, aged six and Kyle who is it eight—to be here in Vancouver to see their Dad compete?

“They think it’s cool. They’re proud. It’s exciting—and yet I bet they’d by-pass all that to have had Dad home. He’s been away for three and a half years of their lives. It’s a double-edged sword. Whether they grow up hating it or loving it, this is their legacy. They deserve an opportunity to be at the track—to see this.”

What’s next?

“I don’t know,’ says Aly. “I can’t even imagine it. The book is certainly part of what’s next—the game we’re playing together on the same continent on the same stage. It’s been a way of dreaming up our new identity.”

And how did the book come about?

It began with a fight, really. Jeff was home for a few months, and they argued about household tasks—who did and did not do what. So they got out a big sheet of paper. Aly wrote down everything she did around the house. Jeff wrote down everything he did.

“My list was much longer,” says Aly. “We started to renegotiate.”

The Business of Marriage and Medals is, in fact, a business book. It’s about business in marriage and relationship in business.

“It’s only when we started seeing ourselves as a business that our marriage began to work,” says Aly. “Assigning roles, and concrete goals—that’s what we had to do—stop being willy-nilly and thinking it was going to work out. We had to hammer it out and write it down.”

Out of the breaking point came the solution.

“Our marriage has a big message about relationship,” she says. Especially now. “The divorce rate is higher than it’s ever been. Marriage is like a commodity. Businesses treat people like numbers. We’re forgetting the art of relationship: seeing and experiencing another person face to face in an ebbing, flowing balance.

“It’s not a you-against-me thing. It’s a ‘we’ thing. Put the issue out front. Be a ‘we’ and handle it.”

The challenges Aly Pain has faced in her marriage have enriched and deepened her professional life as a relationship systems coach. She finds she has far more compassion for the corporations and families she works with as they go through transitions.

“What they’re saying is exactly what I’m feeling,” she says. “I ask questions I might not have asked before. I know more. It’s a rich place, transition. I don’t find it scary. I like adventure.”

In the end, she says, “This isn’t’ just about Jeff being front stage and me and the kids backstage. It’s more than that. We’re a team, and we know that now.

“Everybody who’s been behind us and supported us—that’s how every relationship succeeds, with support and lots of cheering. We have more people behind us than we can possibly fathom. We haven not gotten here alone.”

To find out more about Aly Pain and her work, visit her website: www.alypain.com and to read excerpts from their book, The Business of Marriage and Medals, visit: http://www.marriageandmedals.com/.

Eldership Circles (reprinted from the Vancouver Observer)

In communities, Realtionship, World Work on January 2, 2010 at 9:00 pm

As supportive as her women’s group has been over the years, Vicki McLeod felt a need to extend her personal work into her professional life—and beyond. She also noticed that many of her colleagues and clients “were doing everything their MBAs taught them and the consultants told them, and it still wasn’t happening—things weren’t changing. Something else was needed.”

So McLeod, a local communications consultant and coach, started an Eldership Circle.

“I realized that if I was going to hold a space for change, I needed a place where I could do my inner work and be fully supported to take it out into the world. So I decided to put out a call.”

The group’s purpose is to create a space where women can help each other in “overcoming personal barriers and prejudices, [creating] conscious awareness of rank and privilege, and resolving inner conflict—all necessary to … heal our communities.” The circle is meant to go beyond personal growth and always points to service. It’s a place where personal development and social consciousness meet.

“To want to change the world is scary. One is subject to doubt and maybe even ridicule. So the Eldership Circle helps people to explore their own edges, get clarity about goals and purpose and hold space for the collective mind to emerge. There’s magic in a circle.”

And who answered the call?

Women who were “willing to stand in wisdom and fierceness to facilitate change,” says McLeod. Women in search of role models and mentorship. “Kick-ass, loving women,” as one member of the circle puts it, intent on charting new territory.

“Spiritual warriors,” says another.

“It’s hard work,” says McLeod, “particularly in dealing with system conflicts. And yet conflict is very often at the core of deep change and can offer incredible wisdom.”

What the women in the Eldership Circle seek and find in each other is, in the words of a third member, “Authenticity, friendship. Laughter. Joy. Connection. A group that will hold me to my highest self when the road gets rocky and bring me back to [my purpose] if I get lost in the mud.”

“Eldership is really about looking at transformational change through the lens of how it can impact the greater whole,” says McLeod.

“Elders ask: what does this mean for the world? If I’m suddenly afraid to speak in front of the group—that is a process for me. It may be present in the group, and it may be present in the World. We are all afraid to speak. How, then, might my crossing that edge make it possible for the World to cross that edge too?”

What is the difference between leaders and elders?

The way McLeod sees it, “leadership is often about having followers. Leaders set a direction.” Elders, on the other hand, “have faith that a direction will emerge.”

It sounds a bit like walking in the dark.

“It’s a lot like that,” says Vicki, laughing.

What, then, would be the most useful relationship between leaders and elders?

“Ideally” says McLeod, “leaders would access the wisdom of elders and eventually become elders themselves.”

This means that elders must be present and in conversation with leaders, which is not always the case today. In fact, some maintain that elders have disappeared over the last few decades into retirement communities and assisted living facilities. We do not have much access to elders. McLeod says that eldership was not really obvious in her world. Both her grandmothers died before she was 20.

“The notion of eldership circles is ancient—the bringing together of the collective wisdom of a group or tribe in service of the greater whole has been around, I would venture, as long as humanity. Certainly, aboriginal cultures consider eldership as a key component of social and community functioning.”

McLeod doesn’t want the circle to be seen as an exclusive enclave for professional women. She wants Eldership Circles to be open to anyone who feels called.

“I would love to see more circles grow, more individuals stepping into Eldership and offering their wisdom to the world. I would especially love to see men’s circles get started—or mixed circles. One of the principles of eldership is embracing diversity.

“I started my circle where I am—a middle-aged, middle-class white woman. So my circle is largely composed of the same.

“My intention for Eldership Circles is very clear. There are no fees for them, and anyone is free to create a circle and use the resources on my website to get started. While this is part of my life’s work, it is not the way I make my living. It is a contribution I want to make to the world, and then I hope that the circles will grow and become self-sustaining and self-spawning.

“It really has nothing to do with me.”

For more information about Vicki McLeod and the Eldership Circles, visit her website:

http://www.vickimcleod.com/world-work/eldership

What are You and Money doing together this Holiday?

In Dialogue, Realtionship, Uncategorized on November 26, 2009 at 8:49 pm

A Guest Post by Shell Tain, PCC, CPCC

So, what do we do with Money over the Holidays?  Most of us use it and ignore it at the same time.  We spend it with the idea that we will catch up with it in January.  Actually it’s more like April, because it takes that long for many people to catch up with, or recover from, their holiday spending.

At the very least it seems we put our money thinking on hold.  And yet, what do we expect from Money during December?  We expect it to be there.  We expect it to stretch to meet our needs and desires.  We expect it to magically appear.  And we expect it to do all this cheerfully.  Hmmm.

Remember that thing about how we are going to be in relationship with Money all our lives?  Remember the question: “If we knew we were going to be in relationship with a person forever, how would we want that relationship to be.” I’m guessing that we wouldn’t expect anyone we were in relationship with to do what we expect of Money over the Holidays.

So, what might Money want?  What’s on Money’s wish list? You’ll have to ask your Money to find out.  (Yes, talking to your Money is a good thing.)

Here’s what I think Money will say to you.  I think it wants what everyone really and truly wants.  It wants your time and attention.  It wants to have a shared experience of deep caring with you.  Well, isn’t that what we want from our loved ones?  Stuff comes and stuff goes, and, frankly, it’s very few presents that make a lasting impression.  What we want is positive time together.  Money wants some of your time and attention.  It might even want your acknowledgment and appreciation for the frenzy you put it through during the holidays.

Wait!  Money as a loved one?  That may be throwing your off, but think about it.  Money is there, in your life, day in and day out, just like family.  Sometimes Money doesn’t give us everything we want, but then, neither does family.  Sometimes we have to work really hard to keep things going with Money, the same as with family.  Sometimes Money seems to let us down, just as family does.  And sometimes, Money really comes through and helps us, just like family.

Money will be with you longer than family.  You will interact with Money every day.  What’s the relationship you want?  What’s the relationship Money is asking you for?

Oh, and again, just like family, Money has some obstacles in communicating with you, doesn’t it?  It can’t talk to you; it has to get your attention in other ways.  What if you tried to notice what it might be trying to say?   What might that bounced check be saying?  What might the pile of unopened bills be saying?  And what might the money that unexpectedly lands in your lap be saying to you?

So check in with your Money and see what its wish list looks like for this holiday season.  Can you possibly fit in giving Money a bit of what it wants now, and during the coming year?

Shell Tain is credentialed professional certified coach, a money coach who knows how to help people make changes.   As an Accountant/Controller for more many years, Shell gained first hand money experience in everything from “start-ups” to mid-sized companies.  Her coaching focuses on how your feelings, beliefs and attitudes about money affect your progress in fulfilling your goals.  Working with Shell improves your confidence and effectiveness with money.  Shell takes her clients from the crunch to the “ka-ching.”

Shell Tain, PCC, CPCC

$ensible Coaching

503.258.1630

shell@sensiblecoahing.com

http://www.sensiblecoaching.com/saleitems.htm