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August 1, 2011

STOP IT!!

A married couple, Jack and Amy, were telling me how unhappy they were. Amy was an attacker who angrily criticized people--especially Jack and her children--from the time she opened her eyes in the morning until she fell asleep at night. She may well have criticized people in her dreams too, but I didn't ask about that. Jack simply withdrew from the onslaught, avoiding any kind of contact with Amy--emotional or physical--as much as possible.

"You're both empty and afraid," I said, "and it's going to take a lot of effort on your part to find the Real Love that will fill you up individually and heal your wounds. That will take time, but in the meantime at the very least we have to stop the wounds."

"What do you mean?" Amy asked.

"Imagine that you want to increase your physical health, so I prescribe a healthy diet and exercise. But every day that you're trying to do these health things, I stab you with a knife or shoot you with a gun. How healthy would you be?"

"I wouldn't."

"It's the same in your marriage. I'll be suggesting a number of things for you to do--reading, calling wise men and women, attending Real Love groups, and more--that will help to fill your emptiness and build your emotional and spiritual strength. But all that won't do any good if you continue the stabbing and shooting that's going on in your marriage."

"Like what?" Amy asked.

"You have to stop criticizing Jack and your kids, and you have to stop the anger. Completely. The anger is killing you and them."

"How can I just stop it? Won't that take time?"

"Yes, actually, with conventional means I believe it would take quite a long time. stop 2.jpg But I don't believe that you and your family can afford that time, so I suggest that you begin by doing something that can work right now."

"What?"

"If you want to increase the happiness in your family--and I remind you that this is for you, not for me--you would need to stop talking entirely. I recommend an initial period of 30 days."

"No talking?!! How is that possible?"

"You just put your lips together and keep them there."

"We have two kids I have to talk to all day. And I have to talk to Jack."

"You'll be amazed at how optional your speaking is. For one thing, if you were in the hospital for a month--with a heart attack, for example--the family would still do almost everything they do now. They'd be all right. And this is at least as important as taking care of a heart attack."

"I can't imagine how everything will get done."

"It'll happen. If you have to express yourself, you can write notes or send emails or texts."

"Okay, I don't see how it's possible, but let's assume that it is. I still don't see why this is all about me. You talk about wounds, but it's like you think I'm the only one wounding anybody. I understand that anger is wounding, but when Jack pulls away from me, that hurts my feelings too. So why are we not talking about Jack changing his behavior? Are you saying this is all about me?"

"Not at all. Your anger is unloving, and so is Jack's withdrawal. I get that, but I've learned from extensive experience that the first thing that has to change is the more aggressive behavior. Imagine that I'm hungry, and you have an apple. I ask you to give me the apple, but you refuse, so I punch you in the face--repeatedly. You tell me to stop hitting you, because it hurts, but I reply that you are hurting me by not sharing the apple. Does my hunger justify hitting you?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"You can't hit me just to get something you want."

"Of course not. You have a right to require that I stop doing something TO you that is harmful. I do not have a right, however, to require that you do something FOR me, even if I claim that you're hurting me if you don't give it to me. Make sense?"

"I guess so."

"And whose behavior would have to change first? In order to settle this dispute, should you give me the apple first? Or would I need to stop hitting you first?"

"You'd have to stop hitting me."

"Right. Once I stop hitting you, we could have a discussion about my hunger and what you might be willing to do to help me."

"Makes sense."

"When you get angry at Jack, you are hitting him emotionally. Really. And that has to stop before you two can move forward toward happiness. It simply is not reasonable to ask Jack to be more affectionate toward you while you're hitting him."

"It just feels like you're telling me that this is all my fault."

"Not at all. You're both being unloving. I'm not assigning degrees of fault. I'm just saying that your behavior has to change first. If your car is out of gas and also needs new brake pads, it makes no sense to discuss which is the worst problem. We just need to identify which problem to solve first. You'll need gas in the car before you can drive to the shop to get the brakes fixed--slowly, of course."

In our relationships we must stop the most obvious wounding before we can move on to healing those wounds and creating lasting health with love. What can you do when you're overcome with anger or a desire to speak a critical word? Think before you speak. Don't speak at all. Call a wise man to share your anger, rather than doing it with the person you're angry with. Read some Real Love material. Meditate. Pray. But make it a solemn vow that there will be no more wounds inflicted by you.


August 3, 2011

A Child's Fantasy

A man called me to describe a conversation he'd just had with his five-year-old daughter:

Father: Good morning.
Child: I had a dream.
Father: Oh? What did you dream about?
Child: I dreamed that I was an adult.
Father: What did you do as an adult?
Child: I told my kids what to do.

It is our job as parents to teach our children how to behave--how to be responsible and loving, for example--in ways that will lead to greater happiness. father daughter.jpg We have to guide them, but we must remember the pivotal role of loving them. If we control them without love, they will be unhappy and will tend to do the same to their own children.


Click here to view one example of what happens when we control our children.

August 5, 2011

The Origin of Real Love

I've been asked many times how Real Love began. How did I think of it? What books did I read? Who were my teachers?

For forty years of my life I created success by relying on my intellectual and emotional skills. If I wanted "more," I just worked harder. And I had a great deal: all the money, power, success, admiration, and possessions I had ever wanted. But I was not happy--not deep down peaceful--and that became very discouraging. I used drugs. I was depressed and even suicidal.

I looked for the origin of happiness everywhere I could think of. I went to counseling, group therapy, support groups, drug treatment centers, 12-step groups, seminars, and more. I went to church. I read the Bible and prayed. I talked to people.

Nothing. I couldn't find a single soul I thought was truly happy, nor anyone who could describe how that might be achieved. So I gathered a group of friends together, and we experimented--with books, techniques, rituals, whatever. We threw out anything that didn't cause a real change in our hearts. It wasn't enough that something was interesting or entertaining. No, it had to really make a change in how we thought and felt.

We finally realized that none of the conventional approaches worked, but after a year or so of meeting like this I recognized that the relationships of the men in the group had become a real treasure. jumping for joy.jpg We were becoming closer. We were happier. Why? We noticed that we experienced moments of real peace most often when we simply shared how we felt, how we thought, and who we really were with the other men. We were happier when we were truthful and felt accepted.

I realized that the greatest purpose in life was to become genuinely happy, and if I didn't have that kind of happiness, I didn't know anything. I looked in the mirror and said, "You don't know anything. Nothing. IF you did, you'd be happy. Are you willing to learn?"

So I decided to make a leap of faith. I just gave up my opinions and simply listened. I knew there had to be an answer, and I didn't know how to find it on my own, so I humbled myself--as much as a proud, foolish man can--and quieted my mind to a place where I could just listen. And the answers came. Concepts, stories, metaphors, and more came into my mind. I'm not talking about channeling, where voices speak or exact passages might appear. I'm saying that the frameworks of ideas and patterns became clear, and then it was my job to put them into sentences and paragraphs. I carried a notepad everywhere, writing down these ideas as I walked, sat, even rollerbladed.

I first wrote a single page of ideas, and we implemented them in our group. We practiced intentionally telling the truth about ourselves, not certain of what would happen. It worked. I suggested a definition of Real Love. It made sense. I wrote several pages and the outline of a seminar that we shared with other men. More success, so we invited people from all over North America. It still amazes me that we had the courage to do all that.

What was the source? What is the source to this day? You can call it what you want. I have no need to prescribe to anyone what their "higher power" or divine source might be. You can call it God, or Allah, or the Spirit, or the Universe. But it's very real, and now I write only when I have the feeling of that influence. If I don't, I stop writing. I know the truth of it because the principles work, and because in all these years I've never had to go back and change what I wrote when I was in that receptive mode.

Real Love is simply true, universally so, and I'm grateful for the profound changes it has made in my life and in the lives of millions of others. And I'm grateful for the Source of these ideas and this power.

August 9, 2011

The Tantrum

Melanie and Ray were like many parents I've known. They has no experience with unconditional love, so they couldn't give it to their son, Bradley, who was twenty years old at the time I first met them. And they couldn't teach him to be accountable or responsible--they never told him no, for example--because they couldn't bear the disapproval he expressed when they tried to modify his behavior in any way. tantrum adult 2.jpg It was unintentional, but Bradley's parents taught him that the definition of love meant giving him whatever he wanted--a belief shared by a very large and increasing number of children.

But then Melanie and Ray learned about Real Love, and as they implemented the principles, they experienced remarkable growth in their marriage and in their ability to love Bradley and teach him to be more responsible. Bradley responded to their efforts with enormous victimhood and anger. His parents were puzzled. "We're loving him more than ever," Ray said. "Why is he being so difficult?"

"You didn't mean to do this," I said, "but all his life you've thoroughly trained Bradley that he could have whatever he wanted, that he didn't have to be responsible, that he didn't have to work, and that he could manipulate you simply by being angry. You taught him that those were the rules of life."

"And now we've changed the rules. And he doesn't like it."

"Exactly. All of a sudden you're saying that he can't have whatever he wants, he has to be responsible, he has to work, and you won't be manipulated. He doesn't see that you're trying to help him to be responsible and happy. He believes that you are being unkind and cheating him of what is rightfully his. He believes that you have no right to change the rules. It's all terribly unfair."

"Yeah, he uses that word a lot--unfair."

"The truth is, what you're doing now is right and fair and loving. Previously you were teaching him principles that don't work. All these years you've been wrong."

"We tried telling him that, but he flew into a rage."

Children who are raised to feel entitled and to act like victims are almost never grateful when you introduce Real Love, which includes the teaching of responsibility. They had a great racket going, and now you're disrupting the whole system of trading.

Not long after the above conversation, Melanie told me that she had written Bradley to ask whether she should come by his apartment to give him his birthday present, or would he prefer to come over to their home to get it. Following is his response by text message, accompanied by my comments to Melanie:

Bradley: I hate it that you're forcing me to tell you this . . .

Me: Melanie, I don't even need to read further. Bradley blaming you for all the unhappiness in his life. He's angry that you've disrupted his predictable world. Victims are always saying things like, "You're forcing me," and "I have no choice," and "It's not my fault."

Bradley: . . . but I just have to cut you two out of my life.

Me: Ah, an early knockout blow. He's been having little tantrums with you for quite some time, trying to get you to change the rules back to the way they were--the rules he liked, the rules that allowed him to have whatever he wanted. He's pouted, shouted, withdrawn, and more. But all that manipulation hasn't worked, so here's the ultimate threat, that he'll cut you off. He knows that you're afraid of his disapproval, so he's sure that this ultimate withdrawal of his approval will serve to bring you back to your senses. Also notice that again he's not making a conscious, rational decision. No, he "has to" cut you out. It's not his fault. He has no choice. This is how victims speak and behave.

Bradley: I'm not going to tell you why I'm doing this, because you'd just tell me that you're trying to love me and teach me and all that Real Love crap.

Me: He's not going to give you his reasons, because he's lying on the floor having a tantrum, and that behavior is pretty impossible to justify reasonably. He's telling you that there's no way he's going to give up his victimhood or his lack of responsibility. And if he dismisses unconditional love as "crap," then he doesn't have to pay attention to any of the principles therein.

Bradley: I know you and dad think you're happy, but you're just fooling yourselves.

Me: Victims are never wrong. Everyone else is wrong. For Bradley--as with all victims--the definition of "right" means giving him what he wants, and if you refuse to do what's "right" according to that definition, you are wrong and couldn't possibly be happy. If a victim is unhappy, he'll ensure that everyone else is too.

Bradley: I didn't want this to happen . . .

Me: With victims things just "happen." They never have any responsibility for what occurs.

Bradley: . . . but I just don't know you anymore.

Me: He's finally speaking something close to the truth now. He really doesn't know you. You've learned some true principles and changed your lives, and that is very confusing to him. Of course, he didn't really know you before either, but at least he knew how you'd react to his manipulations. Now he doesn't.

"So what am I supposed to do now," Melanie asked me. "Do I take his birthday present to his apartment?"

"No," I said. "He's having a tantrum specifically so you'll pay more attention to him. His life revolves around manipulating people to get what he wants--which makes Real Love impossible--so you don't want to go back to that."

"It sounds like you're suggesting that now that he's cut us off, we'll be cutting him off in return. It feels like revenge."

"Sure, I see how it could look like that, but you are not cutting him off. You're simply choosing how and when to love him, rather than rewarding his manipulations. If you take over his gift now--immediately after his threatening message--he'll regard your behavior as a direct response to his threat. You'll be teaching him again that all he has to do is throw a fit, and you'll give him what he wants."

"So what should I do?"

"Truly love him, unconditionally and in a gradually increasing way. He's made it quite clear that he doesn't want you to teach him responsibility, and at his age he has a right to make that choice. At age twenty, he's not obligated to listen to a word you say. So, for now, you only love him--gradually, in a way you choose, so he doesn't feel like he's manipulating you for the attention you give. And you take it slowly, so he doesn't feel like you're desperate for his approval. Another reason to go slowly is so he doesn't feel like you're entirely ignoring his command to get out of his life. To be specific, text him every few days. Be casual but endearing. You might, for example, text him saying, 'Just thinking of you. Mom." Email him--but not too often, so you're not clinging. Send him a small gift in the mail. Whatever. Each message and each act is just a way of saying, I love you."

Two weeks later, Ray called me. "Bradley texted me to say that his rent and car payment are past due."

"I'm sure they are."

"So what should we do?"

"Anything you want, obviously, but didn't Bradley say that he had cut you off?"

"Yes."

"So now he wants to cut you off but not your money?"

"That does seem a little strange."

"More like crazy."

"Agreed. So if I refuse to pay his rent and his car payment, won't he think I'm punishing him?"

"He might, so you have to be absolutely certain that you're not punishing him. And if you understand that what you're doing here is loving, you'll know you're not punishing him."

"I don't quite understand."

"So far Bradley has not learned to be responsible, mainly because you haven't taught him that principles. The essence of responsibility is that when you make choices, you also take upon yourself the burden of the consequences of those choices. Agreed?"

"Sure."

"But with Bradley that got all screwed up. Sure, you've let him make his own choices, but then you have paid the price for his choices. You let him pick his own apartment, for example, and buy a car, but then you have paid for both. That's the opposite of being responsible. So now you're going to finally teach him that he's responsible for his choices, and one way to do that is to let him pay for his own rent and car. Or he could walk or get a bus to work. He might need to get a smaller apartment. He might have to stop going to bars, because it's expensive. These are all principles he needed to learn long ago. His cutting you off, however, is a perfect opportunity for him to learn the price of making certain choices. He has declared his independence, and financial independence is part of that."

"This could be pretty great, actually."

"Yes, hardly revenge. You'll finally be loving and teaching your son, but that doesn't mean that he'll appreciate what you're doing. He's fighting you because he doesn't want to learn responsibility. He wants you to take care of him, as though he were still a small child. He wants the responsibility of a child but the choices of an adult. Very confusing for him."

Our children have tantrums specifically so we will not bother them with the inconvenient lessons of life--how to be responsible and loving, for example. If these tantrums make us uncomfortable, we'll stop teaching the lessons, and everyone will lose. It takes courage and faith to be a real parent, and we must be willing to pay that price if we wish our children to be truly happy, rather than just entertained and pampered.

August 11, 2011

Just One Hand

Recently I was talking with a man whose life had become increasingly unhappy. A number of questions revealed--no surprise--that he had never felt unconditionally loved. So I showed him what Real Love looked like, and the effect was dramatic. In the space of a few hours, he felt much less afraid, less angry, more peaceful.

But then he said, "But what happens when I leave here? How can I find other people to do this with me?"

"Right now, you only need one hand," I said. give a hand.jpg

"What do you mean?"

"For most of your life you've been in the middle of the ocean drowning. I'm extending a hand to pull you in the boat. Right now that one hand is all that matters. Focus on that. If you're busy worrying about what will happen in the future if you drown again, you'll let go of the one hand, and you'll be drowning again."

If you're drowning, you only need one extended hand. If you're starving, in the moment you only need one meal. Find the love you need and embrace that completely before you move on to your next fear.

Learn more here about the importance of our staying focused on the present.


August 15, 2011

Are You Willing to Pay the Price?

Elaine called me and said, "I need some work done around my house, and for years I've used the services of this guy, Clay, who does pretty good work and doesn't overcharge me. But he really gets on my nerves--bad. And I must not be the only one who finds him annoying, because he has no friends at all."

"He never stops talking," she continued, "and his favorite topic is himself. I go back and forth between feeling sorry for him and wanting to tell him to shut up. So I need him, but I can hardly stand to be around him. I feel critical toward him, run from him, and pretty much don't know what to do. I tried to tell him about Real Love once, but that didn't work."

"Don't make this too complicated," I said. "You like some things about Clay, but there are other things you don't like. price 1.jpg Understandably, this is how nearly all of us feel about most people. But people are not menus. We can't pick the parts we like and discard the rest. You can't change Clay. The only thing you can change is how you respond to him."

"Like how?"

"You have lots of choices. First, you have to decide if you're willing to pay the price of working with Clay. Everything has a price, and we tend to forget that. We love to make our own choices, but we don't like the accompanying cost. For you the cost of Clay's help is not only the money you pay but also dealing with who Clay is. If you decide the cost is too high, don't ask for his help. Remember, though, that no matter who comes to help you, there will always be a price."

"So maybe I should get somebody else."

"Maybe, but as you say, he does good work and isn't too expensive. You just don't like the 'hidden' costs, so let's see if we can reduce those. You don't like it that he talks endlessly about himself. Understandable, so how could you minimize that? You can't make him stop talking--you've already proven that--but you could choose not to be there while he's working. You could leave your house when he's working. Or you could tell him that you'll be in the next room, reading or whatever, unavailable unless he has questions about his work. You could also keep reminding yourself that this man feels unloved and alone, which could change the way you feel about his attention-getting behaviors. There are many things you could do to make the cost of this whole experience more acceptable."

When you buy something at the store, it always has a price. When you get to the checkout, you can't then say that you're not willing to pay that price. You agreed to the price the moment you chose the product. You also agreed to drive to the store, deal with the traffic, park, walk the aisles, deal with the crowds, and so on. It's all part of the price, and if you're not willing to pay it, don't go to the store. Don't choose that product. Similarly, people are who they are, and there's always a price for interacting with them. You can change your perspective toward them--see them as drowning, for example, and be more compassionate--but you still have to choose whether you will pay the entire price. If you're not willing, choose not to interact with that person or persons.

August 17, 2011

Video Games, Computers, and other Media

Is there any doubt in anyone's mind that we're strongly affected by our environment? People immersed in porn think more sexual thoughts, soldiers in battle become hypersensitized to danger (often for the rest of their lives, as in serious cases of post-traumatic stress disorder), and so on. And if common sense isn't enough, studies have proven that our mood and behavior can be significantly affected by almost everything around us, including such "minor" influences as room temperature and noise.

The brains of children are even more susceptible to external influences than adults are, to the point that many experts refer to the neurologic systems of children as plastic, or moldable. It should be no surprise, then, to learn that children are profoundly affected by the media--television and video games, for example--they watch.

Children who watch violent television and play violent video games have been demonstrated to be more likely to exhibit violent emotions, video game 4.jpg thought patterns, and behavior. Children participating in simulated violence were found to be more likely as adults to engage in spousal abuse, assault, robbery, and threats of injury to others. Of course these behaviors correlate with an increase in criminal conviction.

Watching violence desensitizes children and increases the likelihood of their imitating the violence they see. Perhaps more subtly, violence also causes children to view other human beings as objects, which decreases the ability of children to bond with other people or care about their welfare. Even if media are not violent, excessive participation affects children in a great many other ways. Business leaders everywhere are noticing that young job applicants are increasingly unable to communicate clearly, having been affected by the mind numbing effects of texting, video games, and more.

Millions of Americans are so hooked on television and video games that they fit the criteria for substance abuse as defined in the official psychiatric manual. Heavy media users usually exhibit six dependency symptoms--three more than necessary to arrive at a clinical diagnosis of substance abuse--including:
1. Using media as a sedative or pain reliever. The viewer consistently uses media to relieve stress.
2. Indiscriminate viewing--almost any content is acceptable, without thought for the suitability or effect of the content.
3. Feeling loss of control while viewing. The viewing takes over. The viewer doesn't think about the importance of other responsibilities or people.
4. Feeling angry with oneself for watching too much. After viewing, the viewer often recognizes the waste of time and effort and wishes he had been wiser.
5. Inability to stop watching.
6. Feeling miserable when kept from watching. This might be an indisputable test for addiction of many kinds. Suppose a child watches television or plays video games just for relaxation or entertainment--in a non-addictive way. If you ask him to stop and do something else, it's not a problem. He can easily get up from his chair and do something else. If a child is addicted, however, and you require him to stop viewing, there is often an eruption of temper. When addicts can't consume media, they become argumentative, withdrawn, and irritable with family members.

So it's not really debatable that excessive video gaming is harmful. It's a true addiction. How much viewing is acceptable? There are a number of ways to answer that question, but for now consider whether your child has three or more of the symptoms listed above.

What can you do about it if your child is already a media--television, computer, video games, texting, and more--addict? The treatment of addiction includes the 4 R's, as follows (almost like Readin', Ritin, and 'Rithmetic, isn't it?):

1. Recognition.
2. Responsibility.
3. Removal.
4. Recovery and rehabilitation.

1. We've already talked about recognition, but this is far trickier than simply looking at the list of symptoms. You have to be willing to honestly determine if your child has these symptoms. It's easy to minimize these behaviors in your child, and your child will certainly minimize them. Addicts and their families are notorious for lying about the criteria for their addictions.

2. Responsibility. Recognition is difficult enough, but it's far more difficult for parents to assume the bulk of the responsibility for the child's addiction. Addiction is not a disease. It's a response to pain, and invariably the pain our children are responding to is the lack of Real Love in their lives. That is our responsibility. Easily the most difficult thing we'll ever do as parents is to see and admit our responsibility for our children's pain.

Not only are we responsible for the vast majority of the pain in our children's lives, we are also responsible for the media addiction they've chosen to numb their pain. With rare exceptions, children don't introduce themselves to television watching. They don't buy the Xboxes or video games or computers or cell phones that almost become extensions of their fingers and heads. No, we are their drug dealers, and our shame over that truth--mostly unconscious--often keeps us from recognizing and treating the problem.

3. Removal. I've been involved in addiction recovery--my own and others'--for several decades, and I've discovered that it's rarely effective, if ever, to recommend a slow taper from the current dose of alcohol or drug use, for example. There are a number of reasons for that, and we'll name just a couple. Everybody knows that it's less painful to take a Band-Aid off quickly, rather than peeling it off a millimeter at a time. Similarly, each decrease in the level of involvement in an addiction--to alcohol, drugs, sex, and media--results in the pain of withdrawal. If the withdrawal is gradual, the pain lasts much longer, and the pain of a gradual withdrawal isn't that much less than with a complete withdrawal.

Another reason that rapid withdrawal is preferred is that gradual withdrawal requires a series of wise decisions. The judgment of an addict, however, is significantly impaired--often nullified--by use of his substance, even though it might be "just" a video game.

So what could removal of media of any kind look like?

Let's watch a child, Mike, who is playing a video game. His mother, Stephanie, enters the room and says, "Mike, are your chores finished?"

There is no answer from Mike, so Stephanie repeats the question. Again, no response.

This is where most parents really screw up. They begin to compete with the video game. They call out the child's name over and over, rapidly raising the volume with each repetition. They adopt a pleading tone, or they became angrier. But this is all just manipulation and a failure to remember that children need to be lovedandtaught--a single word stating that children need to be taught while simultaneously loved with an absence of any Getting and Protecting Behavior.

In circumstances similar to those above, if parents repeat a question more than twice, they're failing to recognize that the child is already demonstrating at least two signs of addiction: loss of control and inability to stop watching. Addicts simply do not respond to begging, pleading, or intimidation. Parents need to move to the Removal step.

Stephanie had recently been schooled in the treatment of addiction, so after her son ignored her twice, she calmly and firmly walked over to the Xbox and pushed the power button. The game was over, completely removing the addictive substance from Mike. You can't negotiate with an addict. They come up with every excuse in the world to continue their addictive behavior. You simply remove the substance or behavior they use. With an adult addict, his or her agreement is required. This agreement is not required with a child addict, although Stephanie had previously discussed with Mike what would happen if he failed to listen to her while playing a video game.

How did Mike respond? He erupted in a fit of temper. He stomped up and down and yelled at his mother in a highly disrespectful tone. At this point almost all parents negotiate with their children. They agree to turn the game back on if the child will stop fussing or if he will do the chores. They give the child a few more minutes before the chore has to be done. And so on.

When Mike exploded in anger, he fulfilled at least five of the criteria for a media addiction:
1. Inability to stop watching.
2. Feeling miserable when kept from watching.
3. Using media as a sedative or pain reliever. With his family and others, Mike was irritable most of the time, his explosion at his mother being just one confirmation of an overall pattern. Anger is a reaction to pain, so his consistent anger was proof of his general emotional discomfort, which was relieved by his use of video games.
4. Indiscriminate viewing. When Mike's mother interrupted his game, it wasn't at a particularly important moment in the game. Nothing terrible happened. Mike was pacified by virtually any video game or television show, anything that distracted him from the emptiness in his life.
5. Loss of control while viewing. While Mike was playing his game, he could not remember his responsibilities, which had been clearly explained to him. He couldn't even hear his mother when she spoke to him.

As Mike was having a tantrum, his mother remained utterly calm. She raised her hand, which prompted Mike to stop for a moment to listen to what she had to say. "Would you like to continue being angry," she said, "or would you like to talk about this?"

Mike resumed his rant, so Stephanie--following the guidance of coaching she had just received--unplugged the Xbox and picked it up. Mike was alarmed and demanded to know what she was doing.

"It's my responsibility as your mother," Stephanie said, "to love you and teach you to be happy. It's obvious that your playing of video games is interfering with your happiness, so I'm helping you to overcome this problem."

When Mike screamed his disapproval, Stephanie said, "I'm putting the Xbox away for thirty days. You can stop yelling, and we'll discuss this, or you can keep yelling, and I'll put it away for even longer. It's your choice: thirty days or much longer."

Without meaning to, when parents "give in" to tantrums like this, they're actually training their children to use tantrums to get what they want. Parents must diligently avoid such negative training.

Mike stopped yelling and listened while his mother explained that his video gaming was affecting his happiness, his interactions with family members, his homework, his lessons in responsibility at home, and more. She gave him examples to illustrate each negative effect. He argued with her, of course, but she explained his addiction and the need for him to learn lessons in life far more important than how to successfully move to the next level in a particular game.

Mike certainly didn't like the Removal process, but over the following weeks he became calmer, more cooperative, and more responsible. In great measure, his improvement resulted from Stephanie's implementation of Step 4 of addiction treatment: Recovery and rehabilitation. She had family meetings with Mike every day. They read from the Real Love in Parenting book. She gave him more responsibilities around the house and required accountability from him for those assignments. She taught him to be loving, by word and by her example. It's not enough to simply remove an addictive substance or behavior from an addict, which simply stops the continuing damage. They need to feel loved and be taught correct principles, which allows the building of true emotional, spiritual, and physical strength.

Some parents say, "But my child gets good grades in school and does her chores around the house. So then is it all right for her to play video games?"

We still must look for all the signs of addiction, as previously listed. Children can be responsible but still addicted. Countless alcoholics and addicts have claimed that they are not addicted because they hold a steady job, for example, but they're still addicted and experience serious disability in relationships, personal happiness, and elsewhere.

Even if a child demonstrates no signs of addiction, parents need to ask whether media use interferes with more useful activities. For years I was a Boy Scout leader, and when I began the job the boys were primarily playing basketball each week during the meeting time. Okay, basketball is fun and has physical and other benefits, but there were so many other ways they could have expanded their opportunities to learn and grow. So I exposed them to rappeling, rock climbing, spelunking (exploring caves), hiking, camping, cooking, community service, team handball, axe throwing, clearing trees, national and local history, canoeing, and far more. Children need a wide variety of experiences to widen their perspectives, teach them responsibility, and more.

Parents need to have family meetings several times a week, teach children how to be responsible and loving, and give them a spectrum of experiences that will prepare them to feel confident and happy. Video games, computers, and cell phones are not inherently bad, but excessive use of them simply limits a child's experience. Consider allowing a child to use media for a certain number of minutes per day, and then make it clear that if that time is exceeded--a clear sign of loss of control, one of the criteria for addiction--the media will be removed for a considerable period. Explain that you will not nag, plead, or become angry. You will teach the point simply by removing the media involved. Moreover, the content of media will be regularly and randomly reviewed. You will be the approving authority for all video games and television viewing, and you will have access to all websites viewed and all texts sent. The responsibility for raising loving, responsible, and happy children is a significant one, and it cannot be ignored without unspeakably serious consequences.

August 22, 2011

The Billionaire

Earlier this year I spoke with a man whose net worth was $1.4 billion. He employs more than a hundred thousand people in his various businesses and spends vast sums on homes, vacations, vehicles, and more. He said, "I am the loneliest man on earth. I have no friends, my children avoid me, and my wife doesn't want to be around me."

Even though all this man's material wealth and power have brought him no joy whatever, lonely man.jpg a great many of us still work very hard all our lives to possess only a tiny fraction of what he has. In short, we trade our lives for nothing. Before we work to achieve anything, we need to consider whether our goal is worth achieving, as well as considering what we might have to sacrifice to reach it.


Learn more here about finding and establishing goals that will give us the happiness we really want.

August 24, 2011

One Example of Healing--Elena

Markus and Charlene called to tell me about their daughter, Elena, age twenty. Elena had already been in therapy for eleven years, with quite a variety of diagnoses: depression, bipolar disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit disorder, and more. She defied her parents, screaming obscenities at them. She drank and used drugs. She had sex indiscriminately with many men. Her university finally threw her out--after she had tried to kill herself three times--insisting that she be hospitalized and stabilized before she could return to school.

Her parents wanted to send Elena to see me, but I recommended--insisted, really--that they accompany her. Children don't develop behavioral problems in a vacuum.

I spent three days with the family. When Elena first sat down, teen, angry arms crossed.jpg she scowled, folded her arms across her chest, and said, "I don't have to do ****."

"No, you really don't," I said, and she was surprised that I had no interest in controlling or "fixing" her. She began to talk and didn't quit for three days. It turned out--no surprise--that neither parent had ever been loved, and they had no clue how to listen to or genuinely care for their daughter. During those three days, and in quite a number of subsequent phone calls, I loved and taught the parents and Elena, and the parents practiced loving each other and their daughter.

Six weeks later, I received the following email from Elena: "I can't believe how I feel. I have the most beautiful life ever. I just want to share how I feel with everybody." This from a young lady who had been suicidal weeks before.

The next day her father, Markus, wrote: "You are not going to believe where Elena is. She's out mowing the lawn. Without anybody asking her to. She's helping around the house. I don't remember the last time she did that. She's being kind to us and her brother. I never thought this would be possible. And my marriage is better than I ever thought it could be. The effects of Real Love are springing up all over our family."

Charlene wrote: "Elena and I have been fighting for so many years that I just thought it would continue like that. Now we talk almost every day, and we like it. I'm so grateful. Real Love has even changed the way I supervise people at work."

As we exercise faith in the power of loving and teaching, miracles happen consistently.


August 26, 2011

Living in Fear, Living in Death

When I asked Jennifer how she was doing, she said, "Okay, I guess."

"If you're guessing whether you're even 'okay,' you must not be doing all that well."

"I suppose not."

When people "guess" and "suppose" a lot, it almost uniformly means that they're afraid to commit to any decision at all--any action, any declaration of how they feel, any description of an event, I'm OK 1.jpg and so on. Why? Because if you make a real decision, if you commit to something, you can be WRONG, and then people can criticize you. And then you'd feel stupid and worthless and unlovable, which would be completely unacceptable.

I knew that Jennifer had read several Real Love books, but it didn't sound like she was feeling the love she needed. So I asked, "Are you making calls to people who can love you?"

"Well, not really."

"And you have a Real Love group there in your town. Do you attend that?"

"No, Ronnie [her husband] doesn't really like it when I spend time on the phone away from him, and it's even worse if I go to group without him."

"Do you have enough love in your life?"

"Probably not."

When people are afraid, they're often afraid of a great many things. Jennifer was afraid of being wrong, afraid of displeasing her husband, even afraid of admitting that she was empty.

"From what you're saying, and from your tone of voice, it sounds like you're pretty empty. True?"

"Yeah."

"And have Real Love and happiness ever fallen magically on your head, like rain?"

"No."

"So you'll have to find Real Love, yes?"

"Yes."

"Is it likely that you'll get what you need from Ronnie?"

"Nope. You know Ronnie. He's never been loved, and he has no idea how to love anybody else."

"But it remains true that you need it. So if Ronnie can't give it to you, who will?"

"I don't know."

"Sure you do. You've felt loved by people on the calls, right? And in the group meetings?"

"Yes."

"So that's where you get the love."

"But Ronnie will be mad."

"So?"

Long silence. "Ronnie said that when I leave the house--for group meetings or just about anything--or if I spend time on the phone, I make him unhappy."

"When you make calls or attend meetings, what are you trying to do?"

"Get loved."

"So you will be . . ."

"Happy."

"So you're saying that Ronnie is unhappy that you're doing what it takes to be happier yourself?"

"Ouch. I guess that is what I'm saying. That's not pretty."

"You're worried about pleasing or displeasing a man who doesn't want you to be happy. How do you think that's going to work out?"

"I won't be happy, and he won't be either."

"Exactly right. If you wanted to express that mathematically, that would be zero plus zero, which equals . . ."

"Zero."

"Doesn't seem like a great sum to me. If you do what it takes to find happiness on your own, though, at least we have a score of one. That's infinitely better than zero. And if you're able to bring that love back to your marriage, you'll have a greater chance of exposing him to happiness than if you did anything else. If you can do that, and if he can feel what you're offering him, you'll have two people who are happy."

"That makes perfect sense."

"Right now you're afraid of what he thinks, so you're living in fear, which is a kind of death. So stop living like that. Do what makes you happy. Get the love you need."

"What can I do when he gets mad about it?"

"Tell him some version of what I just told you. Say, 'Ronnie, I know you don't like it when I'm on the phone or going to meetings. But it's the only way that I know to find the love and happiness I need. If we're going to have a happy marriage, at least one of us has to do change the way we're living, so I choose to make the change. What you do is up to you. Right now you're not happy whether I go to meetings or I don't, so I'm really not responsible for your being unhappy, even though you blame me. I recognize that you're unhappy, but I can't control that. Nor am I responsible for it. I can only make my own choices about finding love, and that's what I'm going to do.'"

"I don't know how he'll react to that."

"Doesn't really matter. You need to understand that even though you care about his happiness, you're not responsible for it. I repeat, you are NOT responsible for his unhappiness. He was raised in an unloving, frightening home, where he learned that the world is a dangerous and lonely place. He believed what he was taught right down to his bones. What child could resist the teaching of the people who were all powerful in his life? And now he is still responding to the world in the way he was taught. As a child he learned that people make you happy or unhappy, and he still believes it--all the way. He's also determined to make you believe what he does. Then he doesn't have to learn anything, he doesn't have to face the core lies of his world, and he doesn't have to be responsible for his behavior. And all that has nothing to do with you. If you can believe what's true, you can lay down all the guilt you carry around, the guilt he uses to manipulate you to do everything."

"That would be very nice."

"Oh, it's better than nice. It's utterly liberating. It opens the door for you to find the happiness you've always wanted. Really. "

Jennifer began to make calls and attend groups to find the Real Love she needed. Ronnie was furious, but Jennifer calmly responded in the ways she'd learned. She became much happier and began to love Ronnie in ways he'd never known. As he felt her love, he became curious about the principles that had obviously changed her life. He read Real Love in Marriage with her, and they began to grow much closer together.

August 29, 2011

Just Relabel the Ordinate

Steven had been unhappy all his life. His father was distant, virtually not present emotionally, and his mother was a critical, angry woman. No matter how people tried to love him, he just couldn't see to feel it or be happy. On one occasion when he was actually feeling the love, I asked him how he felt.

"Neutral," he said.

I laughed. "You have so little experience with happiness in your life, that you don't recognize it when it hits you in the face."

"So what can I do?" happiness scale.jpg

"Just change the ordinate."

"What? What's an ordinate?"

"Ever seen a graph?"

"Sure."

"On the horizontal axis you measure one thing, while on the vertical axis you measure another thing. Let's say you want to demonstrate on a graph the rainfall during the year. One way to do that is to put the weeks of the year along the bottom of the chart--the horizontal axis--while putting the inches of rainfall along the vertical axis. Marking a single point on the graph, then can express that in the sixth week of the year there was half an inch of rain. With me?"

"Sure."

"On this particular graph the horizontal axis is time, and the vertical axis is how you feel over time. Your problem is that all you've ever known is unhappiness, so the vertical axis--which is called the ordinate--is labeled Unhappiness. Over time, all you measure is how unhappy you are. If things are going well--even when you're loved--the best you can feel is less unhappiness. The best you can feel is brief moments of relief. It sucks."

"It does."

"You're actually telling a lie. Instead of seeing what's really happening, you're describing only the negative involved. Understandable, but not the truth."

"What can I do?"

"Relabel the ordinate. Instead of measuring unhappiness, label the vertical axis more accurately--and more productively--as Happiness. It's truly happiness you want, so why not finally recognize it? Why not measure it? Now, when you get loved, you'll be more likely to feel what's really happening."

Stephen made a decision to simply recognize more truthfully what was happening in his life, and then he was able to feel it more fully.

Unhappiness is actually not a real thing, much as darkness is not a real thing. You can't measure darkness. You measure light. Darkness is simply the absence of light, much as unhappiness is the absence of love and joy. In much the same way that even a small bit of light can dispel "darkness," so also can love eliminate "unhappiness" with the creation of joy. We must measure what is real. In the same way we measure light, we must recognize and "measure" Real Love and the happiness that follows, rather than focusing on the absence of these conditions.


Learn more here about how we can always make the choice to be happy.
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

August 31, 2011

Mud, Mud Everywhere

I was digging a ditch for better drainage in the yard, and the sticky Georgia mud spread everywhere. It was on my hands and arms, all over my clothes, in my hair, down my boots. covered in mud, man 2.jpg When I'm in the mud, everything I touch becomes muddy, so I have to drop everything outside and hose myself off before I go back in the house. Otherwise, I'd leave a trail of mud wherever I stepped or touched anything in the house.

Like mud, emptiness and fear spread everywhere. Our fears, for example, affect the way we talk to our spouses, children, and people at work. Fear blinds us and cripples our ability to make good decisions.

Regrettably, what we tend to do is respond to each incident where we've injured a relationship or made a bad decision because of our fears. We get lost in the endless details and conflicts, when the real solution is to eliminate the fear. We have to leave all the fear at the door, just like Georgia mud. If we don't lose the emptiness and fear--which can be done only with love--we'll be endlessly and futilely responding to the mud we leave everywhere in the house as we walk or sit or touch anything.


Learn more here about the effect of washing off the mud.

About August 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Greg's Real Love Blog in August 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2011 is the previous archive.

September 2011 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.