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When You Need to Know More Than What Not To Do

August 10, 2016

As a therapist I see many people whose upbringing was marked by domestic violence, parental alcoholism, abuse and neglect. I am deeply touched by those persons who as a result, made a conscious choice to not engage in the troubling behaviors to which they were exposed.

I am saddened however in that while many folks have decided what not to do, there are some who have a void, not knowing what to do. Hence while not being overtly abusive, violent or neglectful, they may not yet know how to be fully loving, caring, engaged and supportive.

These persons come to therapy feeling poorly about the outcome in their current relationships. They may feel guilty, blamed or shamed. They may feel unappreciated for the behaviors they didn’t do, not realizing what one doesn’t do of course wouldn’t be noticed by their partner.

In therapy I help the partner to understand and appreciate the actual efforts and choices made to resist harmful behavior. This frequently comes as a surprise and provides insight, empathy and patience for the person learning of this.

As to the partner whose efforts were unnoticed and who may experience a deficit in terms of knowing what to do, direct instruction is helpful. I can advise, teach, coach and educate on how to be reasonably expressive of one’s needs, appreciative of the others efforts and supportive with caring behavior.

One can learn to express and receive affection. In so doing, persons not only feel better about themselves but enjoy more satisfying relationships with their partner and even their children.

Recently I encouraged a man to sit quietly with his 14-year-old son the next time his son loses his temper. This is opposed to his previous strategy of out-shouting and out-controling the lad to force submission.

Rather than forcing submission and managing the young teen in a power paradigm, I offered the dad a caring and gentle strategy to help the lad feel safe and cared for. I simply have no doubt that as explained and demonstrated, this dad will experience success; the kind of success that builds pride and encourages feeling good towards each other.

So even if you are wise and able enough to resist the untoward behavior to which you were exposed as a child, it still may be of value to learn pro-social behaviors for facilitating engagement, cooperation and mutual respect and self-worth. Therapy may hold some value and your attending therapy in this regard only presents you as the caring person you seek to be.

Life is more than resisting that which is harmful. A good life includes knowing or learning how to be reasonably expressive, living and caring. Truly be all that you can be. Therapy may be helpful towards the you that you seek of yourself.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Please check out my services and then call me if you need help with a child behavior or relationship issue.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

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