Thursday, August 8, 2013

Published Intravenous Hope, Stat! We Need to Help Stressed or Suicidal Doctors, Nurses, Psychologists, Therapists and Their Relatives. After looking around the Internet, I decided that there's a real need for a book that helps overstressed health professionals to step back, find ways of reducing their stress, and -- above all -- talk to somebody.

These overburdened staff, administrators, faculty and others in the health field need to learn how to ask for help. They're experts at helping others, but too often neglect to get help for themselves.

If you're a health professional, or you're a family member or friend of one, take a look at samples from Intravenous Hope, Stat! 
Go to one of these:

  Kindle order page

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Finished e-book, Intravenous Hope, Stat!

Long overdue update. Other blogs and projects intervened. Finished Intravenous Hope, Stat! We All Need to Help Stressed and Suicidal Doctors, Nurses, Psychologists, and Therapists.

Finished that ebook, on the need to instill hope in potentially suicidal health professionals. Building my mailing list for announcements when it's published.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New! Excerpts from Stressed Family, Strong Family on AmericanConfusion site

Now available, extensive excerpts from Stressed Family, Strong Family at this link

Here's a list of the main sections on that AmericanConfusion site:

Wow! Strengths!
Kids' Quiz
Help! Stress Ahead!
Bounce Back from Stress
Reduce Stress. Recycle Your Family
Serious Conditions: Stress Disorders

Here is the section from
describing Help Me Cope! in the Kids' Quiz section of 
This quiz enables kids to tell parents what would
help them cope better with stress and challenges.

Welcome to Help Me Cope! - an educational quiz for youth ages 6 to 21.
You'll find sample Kids' Quiz questions below.
After filling out the quiz, a youth and his or her parent
can discuss ways to increase resilience--the ability to handle stress or a crisis.
I developed Help Me Cope! on the basis of my  40 years of experience
as a child and family psychiatrist,
helping young people and families cope with many different sources of stress.
    Young people face lots of stress and can sometimes feel overwhelmed. 
But they also have great natural resilience - the ability to deal with stress,
to be flexible, and to bounce back from problems. 
    Help Me Cope! is designed to let young people
and the adults in their lives develop that resilience.
    How to use Help Me Cope!     
    By answering at least some of the quiz's 38 questions, a young person
can get a clearer understanding of their own resilience.They discuss their answers
with their parent or another adult.

  Now here are the sample questions.
1. I know when I'm feeling stressed-- my hands shake,
or I feel short of breath, or my heart speeds up,
or I feel scared, angry, dizzy, can't keep my mind on things,
want to escape or leave the situation, or I get other feelings such as:________________________
True /__/         Not True /__/            Don't know, or Does not Apply to Me /__/

 2. I'm learning how to face my fears and cope with stress
    from seeing how others cope, or
    from asking others how they cope, or
    from figuring things out for myself, or
    from reading or seeing a video about how to cope, or
    in some other way
True /__/         Not True /__/            Don't know, or Does not Apply to Me /__/

3. I'm learning to stay calm, relax, not feel stressed, and find ways to solve the problems that I'm faced with
True /__/         Not True /__/            Don't know, or Does not Apply to Me /__/
4. I can ask people in my family, or outside my family, how they cope with bad things or family stress
True /__/         Not True /__/            Don't know, or Does not Apply to Me /__/
5. My parents will help if a son or daughter in the family is stressed out and upset, or something bad happens
            /__/ our parent understands and doesn't get mad or yell
            /__/ our parent takes the time to listen
            /__/ asks how we're doing
            /__/ tells us about things they did as a kid to feel better
            /__/ our parent will talk to a teacher about a son's or daughter's need for extra help
            /__/ our parent asks us what we have already tried
            /__/ or what we want to try to make the situation better
True /__/          Not True /__/          Don't know, or Does not Apply to Me /__/
6. If we feel stressed, my family knows when to leave each other alone and not make things worse
True /__/          Not True /__/          Don't know, or Does not Apply to My Family  /__
7. If there's stress, or something bad happens, my family show they care about each other
            /__/ ask each other how they feel, if they're OK
            /__/ ask why they're mad, scared or upset, what's bothering them
            /__/ tell each other how to get through bad times
            /__/ tell each other how to help ourselves
            /__/ tell each other how to cope
            /__/ tell each other what's the right thing to do
            /__/ give each other hope and courage to go on

True /__/          Not True /__/          Don't know, or Does not Apply to My Family  /__/
8. Even if people in the family feel stressed out, we help each other feel better; we talk about the problems, find ways to cope, look for help outside the family, (see other ideas in # 7) 
True /__/         Not True /__/            Don't know, or Does not Apply to Me /__/
9. I get regular exercise, work out, or play sports to forget my troubles and keep fit and strong
True /__/         Not True /__/            Don't know, or Does not Apply to Me /__/
10. I've heard people say, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." I try to follow this advice--I don't sit around and wait for someone else to solve my problems. I try to make things better for myself.
True /__/         Not True /__/            Don't know, or Does not Apply to Me /__/
 That's the end of the sample questions. There are 38 in all. 
After completing as many or as few items as he or she wants, the youth can discuss problem items with a parent or counselor.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

New Version of site in preparation

Note: My website will be revised.
The old site is here on Google Docs.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Stressed Family, Strong Family Site Revision!

I've decided to revise the site!
Quite a few people downloaded the free copy of Stressed Family, Strong Family, my e-book on family relationships, strengths, and stress. That free copy had been up on the site for the past four months.
I removed it on April 17, 2010, figuring that it had been up long enough.

If you would like to order this e-book, Stressed Family, Strong Family, you can get it from these sites order page for Stressed Family, Strong Family
On that site you download in Adobe, HTML or Word formats. The price is US $10

To order a Kindle copy, use this link:
Kindle order page for Stressed Family, Strong Family
You can buy the entire book for US $10;
The Kindle site also offers selected separate chapters of Stressed Family, Strong Family for about US $4 

Keywords: family strengths, stress, family stress, stressed out, traumatic stress, strengths, crisis coping, coping, resilience, teens, emotional stress, psychiatry, school problems, parenting, children, kids, treatment, counseling, e-book

Here is a description of Stressed Family, Strong Family from that ebookmall site above
What this book could do for you:
    Stressed Family, Strong Family could help you focus more on strengths-- what’s right with your kids, your partner, and yourself.
    You might find that problems don’t seem as big, if you can begin to see strengths you may have overlooked.
    “But we’re already coping”
    You and your family or class are probably already coping with stress. But you may feel you could do better.
Better coping comes from resilience.
Resilience means handling
    Unexpected challenges
Resilience means better teamwork, with your kids, your spouse, your partner, or your class.
Resilience means that
    You learn from past challenges
    You can use all of your abilities in a new situation
    You don’t get overwhelmed by most difficulties.
Increased understanding of resilience for kids, parents, and other adults could be one click away.
Stressed Family, Strong Family brings you a lot of information about resilience and coping with crises. You will find quiz items in this e-book, items that help you pinpoint the strengths you need.

More Information about the book
We're all coping
    With stressful times
    With high prices
    With unexpected illness or disaster
Kids and families under stress need support, courage, wisdom, and money. They also need hope: hope that things will get better, hope that keeps them striving until they have overcome the challenges.
Stressed Family, Strong Family is for those who want to help their family or their class:
By following guidelines and answering quiz items that could lead to better coping. Better coping could bring back hope, hope that may have faded in a crisis.

Good Stress or Bad Stress?
Let's spend a moment on good stress and bad stress.
Good stress makes you feel excited, stimulated, and challenged to master the situation. If you are lucky, you have the support of a caring family or friends. If you are lucky, you have enough time, money, and coping skills to meet the situation head-on.

Under bad stress, kids get uptight, lose sleep, don't do as well on tests. They may have symptoms like stomachaches, headaches, or temper outbursts. Feeling stressed, their emotions get the best of them. Parents, brothers and sisters, and classmates may begin to react under bad stress.
If a new family crisis like illness or marital strife piles on top of an earlier stress, the kids need to struggle even harder. Ongoing bad stress plus that new crisis can equal disaster.
And your emotions may get the best of you. You may fail to control your temper when you ought to stay calm. You may give in to kids’ demands, when you know you shouldn't.
The whole family or class begins to suffer. If the parent has a partner, they may argue about how to cope. They start blaming each other, or themselves, or their kids. Kids get more upset when they hear harsh words between adults. If the stress hits a classroom, teachers go home exhausted from their daily struggle.

Tried everything?
You've probably tried everything you can think of. You may have read what some experts have to say.
The key to coping with bad stress is resilience: meeting a stressful situation and keeping on with your life. Experts agree that focusing on strengths can be an important support to resilience.
Stressed Family, Strong Family enables kids and families to spell out the strengths they already enjoy, and pinpoint the abilities they need in order to cope better.

CONTENTS of Stressed Family, Strong Family

Chapters 1, Chapter 2, and Chapter 3
The Resilience Checklists
These three chapters suggest ways you can help your son, daughter, or pupil increase their resilience. You will be helping them to cope better with stress as you look at key ideas from around the globe.

Chapter 4
Help Me Cope: A Quiz for Kids and Teens
Help Me Cope shows where your kids or pupils want adult guidance in order to cope better with stress. You go over their answers with them. You and the youth can then read suggestions about ways to increase coping abilities. (Adults can also answer the questions for themselves.)

Chapter 5
How Families or Schools Cope with a Crisis
Family coping is not the same as individual coping. A whole family or a class needs different skills when the crisis affects everybody. Read about those skills here.

Chapter 6
Recycle Your Family
I don’t mean throw them out with the trash. I want to help you learn about vicious cycles like
Shirking chores
Avoiding homework
You can learn a different way of looking at patterns you may have struggled with, and some ways of getting untangled from vicious cycles.

Chapter 7
370 Strengths
You’ll find here the longest list of strengths and assets I’ve ever seen. I encourage you to shift your attention away from problems and stress. This list can help you identify strengths you may have lost sight of, or never noticed, in your kids, pupils, and family.

Chapter 8
Acute Stress Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
These more serious conditions are important to understand. You may know someone who struggles with flashbacks and other symptoms when they recall a painful event. Chapter 8 describes what kids or adults go through when they have strong and longer-lasting emotional reactions to stress or trauma.

The Appendix
In the Appendix, I’ve included a list of about 130 kinds of stress, on the List Of Bad Things Or Stresses. This list shows the great variety of difficulties encountered by kids and families, all over the world. The List of Bad Things suggests strengths that could be useful in coping with particular stresses.
You’ll also find a list of websites and other information, including links to the sites of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which each have a large number of free pamphlets on common problems and more serious illnesses. For example the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has a large number of pamphlets in English, Spanish, and other languages.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Scapegoating as a Source of Stress and Confusion in Families

Continuing the discussion of ways in which people defend against confusion, based on my book, Lethal American Confusion. In the book I dealt with confusion in governments and large organizations. Here in the blog, I'll apply those ideas to ordinary life.
Today's post is just below the END OF INTRODUCTION line.

Some key points:

1. Many confusion-defenses fail to reduce confusion, or actually make it worse.

2. This sets up a vicious cycle: Confusion sources--> Defenses--> Failure to resolve sources-->More defenses, etc., on and on

3. One of the most common --and malignant-- defenses is

Find-An-Enemy-and-Lose-Your-Confusion. When you find-an-enemy, you bury your own confusion about a given issue, and project it onto the other side: not we, but they are confused. Of course the other side thinks the same about you.
Scapegoating can sometimes be a form of Find-an-Enemy defenses against confusion.

TODAY'S POST: Scapegoating as a cause of confusion in families.

Scapegoating is one of the most difficult and painful patterns that develop in families. This pattern generates confusion about where the problem lies: is it "in" the scapegoat, or "in" the family, or "in" both?
Here is an excerpt from my e-book Stressed Family, Strong Family. The entire e-book is available free of charge from this blog in a December 2009 post. This excerpt might help some families with scapegoats sort out the possible causes and consider ways to ease the stress.

I have not removed some cross references to other sections of Stressed Family, Strong Family. You can find those other sections or chapters in the complete copy in the December 2009 post.

This is one of the most serious patterns that can develop in a family or classroom. Scapegoating means that all the problems in the family or class get blamed on one child. Or the family blames one of the parents for all their troubles. People might say: “If only Stan would straighten out, our family (class) would have no problems.” Or “Everything would be fine if only Sarah didn’t get into trouble all the time.”
Some scapegoats are always in the “hot seat” because they have a mental or emotional problem.
The youth (or young adult) is depressed, hyperactive, suicidal or homicidal, or in trouble with the law. Or they might be psychotic, hearing voices, feeling like people are out to get them. In some of these families, the rest of the family has not had therapy to help them understand the scapegoat’s condition. And sometimes no one helps the one in the hot seat.
If one of those serious conditions exists, and all the problems in the family get blamed on the scapegoat, this is a somewhat different situation from the usual scapegoating pattern. In this case my suggestions about scapegoating may not work. You will need to talk to a counselor or therapist to find the best approach. You can use my suggestions if the counselor agrees, but the ideas here cannot take the place of expert help.
I would like to set aside those serious mental illnesses. We will look at the other families who get stuck in a scapegoating pattern. Any family can slide into this pattern--they may not even notice. They think every family has a problem kid or parent.
Causes of scapegoating
What causes scapegoating to develop? Often the parents have conflicts they have not dealt with. But the parents don’t argue with each other about in-laws, money, sex, work, etc. They fight about how to discipline one of the kids, who has become the scapegoat. Therefore the parents don’t deal with their own adult conflicts. Sometimes one parent really would like a divorce but feels they can’t. Sometimes the reason is that the problems with the scapegoat are so pressing that the parent can’t bring themselves to leave the other one saddled with all the care and anguish.

So the scapegoat has become the problem that draws attention away from the parents’ problems.
Any kid caught in the middle of parents’ fights is apt to get into trouble or have temper outbursts or other problems. Those symptoms confirm everyone’s belief that the scapegoat is the sick one. They see is the problems with the scapegoat, but not the other problems in the family.
Arguing and blame patterns go along with scapegoating
You can look on scapegoating as a severe form of the blaming pattern: all the members blame the scapegoat for all the problems and painful feelings in the family.
In a family I saw years ago in the office, Josh got blamed for all sorts of things. This went on for years during his childhood and teen years. His parents had conflicts in their marriage and took some of those out on Josh.
When he was about nine or ten, he would wake up in the morning determined to stay out of trouble that day. But sooner or later something would happen. He would get blamed by one of his parents for something he didn’t do. Or a brother or sister would “set him up” by blaming him for something they had done.
Parents will usually believe the brother or sister. Then they punish the scapegoat for something a sibling’s misdeed. This makes the scapegoat even angrier.
Of course, Josh did things for which he deserved blame. This would happen even when he was trying to behave. So he got punished, both fairly--for what he did--and unfairly, for things he didn’t do. After a while he quit even trying to behave. Even when he did something good, the parents didn’t believe he was sincere. They just figured he was trying to butter them up, to con them. His parents suspected he was being good so that they wouldn’t punish him when they heard about yet another misdeed.
This mistrust of the scapegoat hurts everyone. Parents and often teachers stop seeing any of the kid’s good points. Strengths get lost. The kid gets to the point where he or she gives up, and shows fewer and fewer strengths.
Parents or teachers don’t deliberately scapegoat one kid. This pattern is a cycle, like the other cycles we’ve seen. Maybe the scapegoat is a kid from an earlier marriage. Maybe he or she reminds the parent of some relative they hate. Somehow the scapegoat gets into the role of “the only problem in this family.”
A scapegoating cycle breeds tragedy. If a scapegoat does not have a mental illness to start with, he or she will often develop one after a few months or years of this pattern. Depression, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual acting out, rage outbursts, school failure, and delinquency are common reactions.
Back to Josh: He used his brains to earn praise and support from teachers. This is unusual, because many family scapegoats get into the same trouble at school. Josh’s teachers may not have realized how vital their support was. It helped him survive the hell he felt in his family life. He went on to college, escaping from the family web. He did well, and became a psychologist working with kids and families. He sometimes tells a scapegoating family about his own experience, so many years ago.
His parents have long since stopped blaming him, and feel very proud of his accomplishments. But the sad memories from childhood will never fade for Josh.
Too many scapegoats lack the abilities Josh had; they end up as scapegoats in school and in the community. I once had a letter from an adult prisoner who had read my description of scapegoating. He said that he recognized exactly what had happened in his own family. He took his anger out on the community and wound up with a long jail term.

What to do:
1.    Look at your family or class. Ask yourself, what other problems do we have? Do we have problems we overlook in our focus on the scapegoat. Make a note of those problems and talk about ways to work on them together.

2.    If you don’t see any problems except those of the scapegoat, ask someone who knows your family or class. Do they think the scapegoat is getting blamed too much for whatever goes wrong?

3.    If the answer is yes, talk to the family or class about this. Tell them that you see that the scapegoat has been getting too much of the blame. Say that you expect everyone to follow the rules, and to admit it when they do something wrong. They need to stop blaming the scapegoat for their own misdeeds. You will also expect the scapegoat to admit it when they do something wrong.

4.    You need to spell out clearly what is OK and what is wrong for everyone in the family or class.

5.    If you don’t have a system of rewards, even such a simple one as saying “Thanks” to your kids, then start doing this. You will need to give fair rewards to everyone, the scapegoat included, when they follow the rules.

6.    Some scapegoating families don’t trust anyone outside the family. They may not even trust a counselor until they really get to know them. One of the family members may have to go to the counselor by themselves at first. After the counselor hears about the scapegoating pattern, he or she may ask the entire family to come in.

7.    If you have lost sight of what’s right about the scapegoat, look at the next chapter, titled “370 STRENGTHS.” That long list might help you find some good qualities you have overlooked.

8.    Parents need to take a look at the other problems that got pushed aside in the focus on the scapegoat. If your marriage or partnership is in trouble, get some help with that.     If there are in-law problems, begin to tackle those. These problems won’t take care of themselves, and they will take a lot of work. If they were simple, they would not have gotten pushed aside.

9.    If you’re a teacher, are you getting frustrated “teaching to the test?” This pressure to make the school look good creates stress for teachers, administrators, and students.     Are you taking your anger out on the kids?
    Ask yourself the tough questions: What can teachers do to support each other? How likely is an easing of the pressures you are feeling? Do you need to change careers?
    You and the other teachers can find kindred souls on the Internet. Check out the teachers’ chat rooms and other resources.

When a parent is the scapegoat
This is a difficult situation, often involving an addicted parent. The same ideas apply. Look for other problems hidden behind the anger and fear swirling around the scapegoat. But that scapegoated parent will need to get help for his or her own problems. And the family needs to stop scapegoating. The family with a parent scapegoat will usually need a therapist.

Some families have a series of scapegoats
Some families or classrooms will have one person in the hot seat for a few days, weeks, or months. Then the focus shifts to another. The shift in a family may be from one kid to another kid, or (infrequently, in my experience) from a kid to a parent or teen. You can handle the situation in the same way as above. A counselor or therapist can help you untangle the binds that keep everyone snarled and snarling.

What if you are the scapegoat?

If you are the scapegoat, you will have a difficult time changing the pattern. The rest of the family or class may mistrust whatever you do when you try to make things better for yourself. I advise you to talk first to a counselor for guidance.
Otherwise you may find that family or class undermines your efforts. They may feel suspicious of anything you say. They may not be able to hear your views. Even if you make a genuine effort, they may think you’re conning them for some hidden purpose. (And you may have done that in the past.) The counselor can help figure out what to do and say.
Remember: trying to “straighten out” or “clean up your act” can take a long time. The family may do things that end up provoking you back into the old ways. (They may not realize they are provoking you.)
They may continue to blame you for everything. They may not even notice when they do this. But they may be able to “hear” this from a counselor who gains their trust.

If scapegoating has gone on for a long time, or if mental illness, drugs, or alcohol are involved

If the scapegoat is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they and the family need to get involved in AA, Alanon, Narcanon, Alateen, etc. And you know what I will say next: therapy! The longer the scapegoating has been going on, the more effort you will need to put into changing.
    The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill gives families hope, courage, and knowledge.

Scapegoating combined with physical or sexual abuse

One of the most destructive of all patterns in a family is the scapegoating of a physically or sexually abused child. A victim of physical or sexual abuse will often misbehave, take out their anger on others, or develop depression or other signs of emotional distress. The family may not see that the beatings are feeding the misbehavior. No one may know about  the sexual abuse. And they don’t see that the scapegoat is getting blamed for everything.
Sexual abuse is usually hidden; only the victim and the abuser know about it. (Occasionally a parent, or one of the other kids may know or suspect.) The victim may misbehave or get depressed as a way of handling the anxiety about the abuse. If their behavior leads to scapegoating by the family, this creates extreme stress. Most people can’t imagine the daily hell the child or teen suffers through from a combination of abuse and scapegoating.

Suicide or homicide by scapegoats

By now you can understand why some scapegoats try to kill themselves or someone else. Their anger, loneliness, depression, despair, or self-blame can become unbearable. Finally they lash out at themselves or someone else. Some may suffer a psychotic break from the stress in the family and at school.

Bullying and Scapegoating

A youth being bullied and a scapegoat have a lot in common. In the last few years, schools have begun to pay more attention to the destructive pattern of bullying. Both the student being bullied and the bullying schoolmate have emotional problems, sometimes severe enough to require professional help. Your school should have an anti-bullying program you can turn to. If not, the counselor or assistant principal should be able to assist you in finding a path to help, perhaps together with other parents and school staff concerned about bullying. Bullied kids have in some instances carried out their suicidal or homicidal thoughts.

If You Need Help Finding Strengths in a Scapegoated Child
A child who is coping with scapegoating has had to develop the ability to survive in the midst of pain and heartache. No surprise: Some scapegoated, triangulated kids grow up with a lot of empathy for the underdog. That’s a Group 4 strength, in the next chapter. I’ve mentioned above a scapegoat who grew up to be a child and family psychologist. He can really feel what kids are going through.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Confusion in Your Life and Mine, Part 4: Vicious Cycles

Vicious Cycles as a Source of Confusion
Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird or a plane?
It sure ain't Superman!
It's a vicious cycle! And it's about to land, right here!

Continuing the discussion of ways in which people defend against confusion, based on my book, Lethal American Confusion. In the book I dealt with confusion in governments and large organizations. Here in the blog, I'll apply those ideas to ordinary life.

Some key points:

1. Many confusion-defenses fail to reduce confusion, or actually make it worse.

2. This sets up a vicious cycle: Confusion sources lead to Defenses, which lead to Failure to resolve sources which leads to More defenses, etc., on and on

3. One of the most common --and malignant-- defenses is

Find-An-Enemy-and-Lose-Your-Confusion. When you find-an-enemy, you bury your own confusion about a given issue, and project it onto the other side: not we, but they are confused. Of course the other side thinks the same about you.
End of Introduction 

Confusion in Your Life and Mine Part 4
Vicious Cycles as a Source of Confusion

Today we take a fierce look at how vicious cycles elbow positive cycles out of a relationship.
(I'll discuss positive cycles of love and reward in a future post.)

In the free e-book I put up on this blog on December 12th you'll find a chapter on positive and vicious cycles. (Chapter 6: Reduce Stress-- Recycle Your Family!)
I'm going to borrow some of those ideas in this section on cycles as a source of confusion.

Why do cycles confuse us?

Because we don't grow up seeing cycles in behavior.
We grow up learning to see individuals--either someone else, or ourselves--as the cause of patterns that bug us.
Vicious cycles are recurring patterns where one person says or does something, the other responds, the first responds to that, on and on. Some cycles happen almost every day, others may occur only every few weeks. Once they get established, they can be hard to overcome.

1. Nag/Procrastinate
One person nags about chores, the other procrastinates or "forgets." After a while, either one may "start" it. Nag, procrastinate, nag… Or Procrastinate, nag, procrastinate

2. Blame/defend or Blame/blame
One blames, the other defends or blames back. "If you'd only…" or "You never…" "You always…" are the beginning of statements typical of blaming. A person usually makes the same complaint or accusation where I have written the three dots (…)

3. Whine/Give in
A favorite of kids, of course. Beg, plead, whine long enough and that well-meaning big person called a parent (the one with all the money) will give in and let you get that candy the supermarket has cleverly place at just your height as you and the one with all the money stand trapped by the checkout counter. Giving in rewards whining, makes it worthwhile. And whining causes giving in. Around and around month after month.

4. Child abuse/anger and rebellion
Physically abused kids often rebel against the abuser, which triggers more abuse, which leads to more anger and rebellion.

5. There are some other examples in Chapter 6., including triangulation, which I'll discuss in a future post.

A general comment about our tendency to see only one person's role in a cycle:
As a brilliant family therapist, Braulio Montalvo, once said (to paraphrase): When you think someone "started it," you then know whom to blame. (He was disagreeing with this idea, as a therapist working to help families get free of cycles and patterns.) The habit of thinking one individual always starts, or always causes a problem--that deeply ingrained habit prevents us from seeing cycles.
The habit of looking for one individual to blame is related to the general defense against confusion: Find-an-enemy-and-lose-your-confusion. That's discussed in Part 1 of this series, and also in Lethal American Confusion.

Key Points:
1. Cycles are no one's fault! Usually whoever starts it is the one that gets blamed as causing the cycle. But we just saw that either one can start any cycle, and it runs by itself. Draw a circle with your part on the left and the other person's part on the right. Draw an arrow from your side to theirs and from their side to yours.

2. You've just drawn a cycle, on which the starting point can be anywhere.
That's why I say, you need to learn to blame the cycle not the other person, not yourself.

3. How do cycles cause confusion in family life and other spheres. (Such as at work)
A. The confusion comes up if you begin to wonder why you stay stuck in such a frustrating pattern.
B. When you try to answer this question, you will probably blame yourself or the other person.
C. But why would you stay stuck in a pattern that can be so painful you may wind up divorcing?
D. Confusing, unless you see the ways people get stuck in cycles (to repeat: because they don't know how to blame the cycle, not each other.)

What to do about cycles? How do you get unconfused about these patterns?
1. Recognize the cycles trapping you. They also trap whoever else has a part in those cycles.

2. When you're not stuck in the middle of a cycle, try these suggestions from Chapter 6 in Stressed Family, Strong Family. (I'm going to copy them from the e-book version, without going through and removing references to other parts of that book. Also, there will be some repetition of points I made above.)

What's ahead in this post:
There are three sections below: (you can jump to any one of them by copying that section title into the "find" key on your browser)




You first need to realize you’ve gotten caught in a cycle. This can be hard to see when you are in the middle of an argument or are busy nagging.
Remember that neither of the people in a true cycle causes it. THE CYCLE CAUSES ITSELF.
Pick a time when you’re not blaming, arguing or fighting with the other person. If you never have any peace between the two of you, get help from a counselor. You need to be able to talk calmly to each other once in a while for my ideas to work. If you are seeing a counselor, he or she may use some of these same ideas.

1.    Practice what you’re going to say to the other person about the cycle you see the two of you stuck in. Try saying it out loud, when you are alone, or say it to a friend. This will help you feel less tense when you bring it up with the person you argue with. In your own words explain that you have read about cycles and nagging or blaming. For ideas about what to say, see Step 5.

2.    What if you two never talk? If you and this person don’t usually talk together, tell them that you want to try. See if you can get the other to agree to practice talking together. Tell them something like: “This book shows some ways for people to talk to each other. I’d like to try the ideas.”
    You could start by talking about something easy--things you each like. Or you can talk about a TV program, maybe while you watch. What you are doing is practicing for the time when you can begin to talk about more serious matters.
Don’t be too upset if this feels strange. When people haven’t been talking, it can take many tries to get used to it. Keep trying. You can even say something like: “Talking like this feels weird.”
    But be careful not to blame the other person for never talking! You can say something like, “I guess we’ve gotten out of the habit of talking.” (If you once had a habit of talking.)

3.    After you get the habit of talking, go on to step 5. Try talking about one of the blame topics--the things you can’t talk about without blaming each other. And remember, most couples have some things they just can’t discuss. Pick one of the things you can talk about, not one of those impossible topics.

4.    If you just can’t talk about anything, even pleasant things, see a counselor, member of the clergy, or other trained person who can help.

5.    If you are able to talk together say something like this (use your own words): “You know those times when we get into arguments about ____________? (You fill in with whatever you usually argue about.) Well, this book calls it a blame (or nag)
cycle. You know how we go back and forth, back and forth, same old arguments? Until I blow up (or cry, or whatever you do.) “
    You go on in this talk to say something like this:
    “This book says that these cycles get going and after a while it’s nobody‘s fault. We just get stuck in it and keep going around and around. One wrong word or look, and we’re off. Either of us might start it or keep it going.    
    “You know: when I say you’re ___________ (whatever you say), and you get mad and tell me _____________ (whatever the other person tells you.) I’d like to try to stop doing that. Do you want to try to stop?”

6.    If you just can’t talk about the cycle without getting into blaming, ask a counselor or someone you both trust to help you talk about it.

7.    If the other person is willing to try changing, agree that either one of you can say, “I think we’re getting into a blame cycle again. Let’s back off and try to relax.”  There are more suggestions about changing the cycle in the next section.

8.    Even if the other person doesn’t think you’re starting into the cycle, can they agree to stop and relax when you ask?

9.    If you can each back off, find something else to do. You’re not shutting the person out. You can each do something separately, or maybe there’s something you both feel like doing together. Anything as long as you don’t get into blaming.

10.    Then you can talk later about whatever it was that you started blaming or nagging about. Suggest something you can do to handle the problem. You can use the ideas in the next section.

11.    Remember: both of you will be changing the way you see yourself and the other person. This is a hard job, and will take those qualities mentioned before:
    Time: You will need time to try the changes.
    Patience: You need patience when you slip back
    Courage: Courage to keep on trying
    Hope: Hope will give you that courage
    Compassion: Compassion helps forgive yourself or the other person when you slip back into the old patterns.
    Does that sound like a tough list to live up to? It is. But those five things, time, patience, courage, hope, and compassion will help you along the hard road of change.

 Most people find that they slide back into a cycle, maybe several times, when they are learning a new way to  look at cycles. The next steps help to keep up your hope and courage by stopping the cycle when you get caught up in it.
    And keep in mind that some kids will take advantage of the splits and arguments between parents. Kids will go to the softer one to get what they want. Then they tell the other one that they got permission.
Don’t ride those negative cycles into a brick wall. Find some positive ones, with help from a counselor if your need it. Tell us what you learned, and how to improve this section on cycles. 


1.    I've described some ideas about changing the nag-shirk and blame cycles in the previous section. But those ideas may not prevent the cycle from breaking out between the two of you. Habits are hard to break. The you risk getting into a new round of the cycle
    Accusing one another with words like "You always," or "You never," can be a clue that a blame cycle might be lurking.
    What to do: When one of you realizes you’re starting on a blame or nag cycle again, remind the other of your plan above. Don’t do this in a way that accuses them. Keep your tone calm. Say something like, “seems like we’re starting in on that cycle again.” Or you could even say, “Here comes that blame cycle again.” (Or nag cycle, or whatever you’re about to get caught up in.)
    Remember, by saying “we” you are reminding both of you that it’s no one’s fault.

2.    Don’t make the other person feel stupid or bad because the two of you have slipped into a cycle again.

3.    Don’t accuse the other of causing it. You agree to cool off, stop arguing, or whatever your part of the cycle is.
4.    Ask if they feel like you’re blaming or nagging them, etc. If they feel that way, apologize and tell them again that you’d really like to stay out of the cycle. If you’re feeling nagged or blamed, say so in a neutral tone. “Maybe I’m wrong, but I felt like you were nagging me just then. Did I take what you said the wrong way?”

5.    Use this escape route.
    First, each one listen while the other says what they would like to do to make things better. (See “What you can do instead of the cycle” below.)
    Listen to the other person's plan.
    Don’t interrupt them.
    Don’t disagree, or tell them the plan won't work.
    Then say what you would like to do to make things better. The other adult or kid listens, does not interrupt, does not say your plan won't work.

6.    You don’t need to agree on one plan. If each of you can try your idea, go ahead. Ask each other how you’re doing in a day or whenever you have had a chance to try the plan.
7.    What you can do instead of the cycle
    First, tell the other person you are not going to blame them, remind them, nag, or whatever. (Unless they ask you to remind them. If they want you to remind them, go ahead. At least they have realized they need reminding.)
    Second, tell the person you are going to take a break, stop this conversation, and do something else for a while. Tell them you are not running away from the problem.

8.     If you are a kid, change your part in the cycle. Quit blaming your parent or teacher for your problems. Start doing your chores, your homework, whatever you are supposed to do.
    Don’t blame others, fix your own part of the cycle.
    Most important: do those chores or homework without being reminded. Even if you still get reminded once in a while, keep on doing the chores or homework before you get reminded. Don’t start blaming your parent for reminding you. When you get reminded, you can say, “Mom, I already did it. See?” Say that in a calm voice. Don’t yell.
    Do the best job you can. If you need help with homework after trying your best, ask for help. If your parent can’t help, ask someone else who can. That might be another kid, or a teacher, a tutor, or a family friend.
    And if you really did forget to do it, say this so a calm way. “Sorry, I forgot to do it. I’ll do it right now.”
    If you want to be reminded for the first few times, ask your parent to remind you. You’re taking at least some responsibility by admitting you forget and asking for help. Later on you can take the whole responsibility by doing it without reminding. Then tell your parent, “I think I can do it without reminding. Let me try.”

9.    Kids may need a reward after doing the chores. They can watch a TV program, play a video game, go out and play, whatever works. This is not a bribe; this is a way to teach them to do their work before they play.

10.    If you need help finding strengths in an arguing child, you can look on arguing as a type of assertiveness. In the next chapter, see Number 5, ASSERTIVENESS, DRIVE, SELF-DEFENSE, SELF CONFIDENCE. Those abilities can often harness the same energy as arguing, but in a more constructive way.

11.    As an adult, try to take a break from the cycle by doing something else instead of nagging or arguing. Explain that you’re not mad, not walking out on the problem. You just need a break and you want to stay out of the cycle. Take your mind off the problem. Do a chore of your own. Take a walk if you have time and your neighborhood is safe.

12.     Offer to tackle the chore together with a youth. Team up instead of arguing about it. Dividing up the chore will require teamwork. You may have different ideas about how to do it. See if you can try the other person’s way. Or see if they can try yours. (Suppose the problem is homework, and the kid has tried and needs help. You can go over it with him or her, if you know how to do it. If not, write a note to the teacher saying that your child tried and needs help with this homework.

Looking for strengths in the area of Cooperation?
    In the next chapter, scan Group 2, Acceptance of Skillful Suggestions, Advice, Guidance, or Group 3, Responsibility, Cooperation. You may find some abilities you have lost sight of. A couple of strength groups are more general and could help with almost any cycle. You’ll find those in Group 8 (Ability, Talent, Skills, Independent Learning, and Creativity) and Group 10 (Leadership, Athletic Interests and Abilities.)
Focusing on any of a youth’s skills can comfort you when you’re frustrated by a cycle. You may need to scan several groups in the next chapter. Remember: when I suggest a group of strengths to take a look at, a child or teen may only be showing only one, or a few, of those items. See which ones you can support.
There are many other abilities in other clusters you may recognize as skills you have lost sight of in a youth with problems.

13.    If this doesn’t fix the problem right away, that’s OK. You will need to try many more times. Changing cycles takes time and practice. The cycle may have gone on for months or years. Those habits take time to overcome.

14.    You are each helping the other. You are giving each other hope when you start to change a cycle. You build teamwork and the courage to try something new.

15.     One more thought about arguing
Realize that the two of you get stuck in an arguing cycle. If the other person hasn’t read the description of positive and negative cycles above, ask them if they are willing to do so. After they understand what we mean by cycles, say that you feel like the two of you get stuck in an arguing cycle. That is, arguing just leads to more arguing. If the argument is with the other parent, don’t drag the kids into it. Don’t complain to the kids about the other parent. Don’t tell them how wrong the other parent is.
What to do:
Tell the other person you can each have a different opinion. A different “take” on something. Neither has to prove they are right. Neither has to prove the other one is wrong.
Suggest this: When you start arguing, either one can say, “Wait, we’re going to get stuck in an argument. Let’s just say we disagree. You see it one way, I see it another. Let’s step back, stop trying to prove we’re right. Relax and do something else. Get untangled.” (You’ll find your own words for these ideas.)
Agree that either person can say something like: “Here we go again.” They say this when they see an argument starting. Agree to take ten minutes to cool down. Think over the situation. Make a new start.

How you get out of an arguing habit depends on what keeps it going. You or the other person many be caught in one or more of the following traps. If you can get out of the trap, you can settle arguments more easily. Here are some of the reasons people get trapped in arguing.

Note: Some of the “What to do” suggestions here can help with other vicious cycles.

A. Not being able to admit when you’re wrong
Let me ask you: are you one of those people who have a very hard time admitting they are wrong?
Yes? Then read on.

What to do:
Take a look at your reasons.
1. Do you fear losing respect if you admit that you are wrong in an argument with a child? Do you fear that the child will quit obeying entirely? This will not usually happen.

2. Try admitting your mistakes and see if this relaxes you and the youth.

3. Do you feel stupid if you admit you’re wrong? No need to feel that way. Give yourself credit for facing up to a mistake. That’s not stupid at all.

4. Did people call you stupid or make fun of you growing up? They may have made you feel as though you should hide mistakes.
Put those feelings aside and focus on the present. Those scenes from the past don’t belong in your present-day mind.

5. Do you hate for the other person to “win?” Is that because they make fun of you? Do they act superior? Show them in a polite way how they look and act when you feel they are acting superior.
    Can you two each admit when you’re wrong? Ask them if they are willing to try.

B. Not being able to learn from another person
Do you feel like you have to know all the answers? Hate to admit you don’t know something? This feeling can drive arguments about who’s right.

What to do:
1. Ease up and allow someone to teach you. Admit you could be wrong. Tell the other person you’re willing to learn to do something different. You want kids to have a good attitude about learning. Show them you can learn.

2. Do you feel like the kid is too young to have a good idea? Give them a chance. Listen to their thoughts. Kids can come up with good ideas if they feel respected. That’s how they learn to think for themselves. Believe it or not, some kids can even help their parents make peace. You can ask that type of youth what they think will work best. Then both parents should give this a good try. But be careful not to put that kid in the middle. Don’t expect him or her to decide who’s right or wrong.

3. Of course, some kids are just trying to get what they want. They may want to make you feel you’re in the wrong for making them do their work. Stick to the fair rules and limits you have agreed on. Work done earns rewards or privileges. Work not done gets no reward.

4. Suppose you find that you can accept ideas from people outside the family. Listen to your spouse, son, or daughter the way you would listen to an outsider.

C. Being unable to argue with the person you’d like to (boss, teacher, spouse, in-law)
Maybe you are angry with someone else, such as a boss. You can’t get mad at work. Instead, you argue with your family,
Your son or daughter may feel angry with a teacher or a friend. They can’t get mad at this person, so they take it out on you.

What to do:
1. Realize when you’re not the real target, or when you’re taking out your anger on someone else. Don’t argue back if it’s another person taking out anger on you. Let them blow off steam for a while. Look for a chance to ask how things went today in school, or on the job. Wherever you think their anger may be coming from.
When you catch yourself taking out anger on the wrong person, or when they point out that you are, apologize. (Hard to do, I know!)

2. Don’t try to solve the problem right away. The other person may come to see that they were dumping some anger on you. Then maybe the two of you can figure out how to deal with that teacher, boss, or other kid. Talk about whoever has made them angry.

3. Don’t take out your anger on the kids. If you do, then admit you were in the wrong. Apologize.

D. Being “naturally” short tempered
Some people have a short temper by nature and jump into an argument too fast.

What to do:
1. You can learn self-control. Get a book on controlling your temper. Your library probably has several. If you can’t find one, ask a librarian. You don’t have to go through life with your temper on edge.

2. You can enroll in anger-management courses. Check with the school or a local group like the “Y’ or the “4H.”

E. All you ever knew was arguing
Maybe you grew up in a family that argued all the time. You may not have learned any other way to get along. Use the suggestions in A, B, and C above to find ways to stay out of arguments. Find a way to exit if you get into one. Anger management classes can help you, also.

An Aside About Anger Management Classes
Arguments or other conflicts between partners can lead to hitting, beating, strangling or other abuse. Sexual abuse of partners also occurs. Some courts will require an abusive spouse to go to anger management classes. These can be helpful if the person admits they have a problem. It doesn’t help as much if they go just because a judge forced them to, though sometimes that’s the only way to get them to try anger management.
“Road rage” (trying to cut off, chase, hurt, crash into a driver who has made you angry) also can lead to referral by police to anger management classes.
A member of the clergy can sometimes convince a spouse to go for anger management help, if you can’t get the message across.
In addition to anger management classes, a therapist and psychiatrist can work together if the temper problem comes from mental illness, drug or alcohol abuse, etc.

F. The arguer has a mental illness or an addiction to drugs or alcohol
Some kids or adults suffer from severe depression or other emotional problems that make it hard to control their temper. If they use drugs or alcohol, this can also make them lose control easily. We speak of “dual diagnosis” when a person struggles with both mental illness and an addiction.

What to do:
1. The mental problem, or the drug or alcohol problem, needs treatment. That treatment should help control temper outbursts.

2. The same is true for temper problems due to brain damage. Kids or adults get brain damage from a head injury, lead poisoning, infections, or other causes. The cause needs treatment. Then medication can help with temper outbursts and arguing.

3. Also, anyone who has been through a frightening or life-threatening situation may develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The youth or adult may have trouble with temper control, among other problems. They may need special help if the condition has lasted for months or years.

G. Other problems that may need treatment: A need for excitement can trigger an argument. People don’t know how to relax or enjoy a calm talk. Combat makes them feel alive.
Hiding feelings of inferiority can lead people to argue, in order to keep their self-respect. A counselor can help with this.
Getting sexually turned on by fighting can lead people into arguments. Spouses may end an argument by having sex. This means that arguments bring a powerful reward--if the sex is good for both. No wonder they fight!