Why We Need Each Other

Have you ever noticed how reflections in the water – of trees, clouds and sky appear more brilliantly colorful and real then what we see with our naked eyes?

Just so, our selves reflected in the heart-filled words of loved ones and friends can teach us, helping us to establish a truer vision of who we are and what we may become.

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The Wood of Abraham and Isaac

During morning prayers, Jews read the story of the Binding of Isaac, The Akedah, from Genesis 22 in the Torah (Old Testament)

Each day, the reading of The Akedah, in which father and son journey together to a mountain designated by God, brings us many gifts. We watch as Abraham gathers the wood upon which he will offer his son up. Abraham builds an alter of this wood and places his most precious creation upon it, ready to sacrifice him to God.

Contemplating this wood, I have lately been seeing the metaphor of connection to our lives. The species of wood we gather is made up of the precious relationship to family and friends, the livelihoods we choose and the ways we use our time, as the days of our lives are spent.

Like the story in scripture, we are often aflame with passion and other powerful emotions for the stories of our lives and those we have chosen to populate these stories.

Certainly, the tale of Abraham and Isaac reminds us to select the wood carefully upon which our life is to be irrevocably consumed. In the story too is a reminder of the power in dedicating one’s purpose and actions to a will higher than we are sometimes given to know. In doing so, we are linked across the eons to those who came before us and to the seed that has yet to spring forth.

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Fathers As Champions

Many fathers are champions of their sons or daughters – seeing their possibilities. My father championed me in the use of focused listening and intelligent action to benefit others. This “championing” began with my grandfather who taught my Dad the importance of self-care in a world that sometimes seems to push us toward exhaustion and burnout.

GUIDANCE ON THE PATH

My father chose a path where his work in the business world rejected over-achievement and where “enough” money was balance with enough time for family, for his music and his books. I would often find him, when I returned home from school, curled in the black leather and curving rosewood of his Eames lounge chair, listening to Brahms, Beethoven, Shubert or Mozart. In those days, he would playfully quiz me, challenging me to guess the names of the composers. As I grew into my high school years, I would find myself, similarly en-wombed in his chair, listening and reading.

SELF-CARE AND SELF-WORTH

My father, released from the entrapment of workaholism, characteristic of so many of the men of his generation, was also busy supporting the quest of my mother to return to college, then graduate school and finally to teaching inner city kids, inspiring them toward lives of worth. Likewise, I was inspired by my father’s dedication and championing of us so that my work became “working on myself” and learning ways that I might help others come to satisfaction with themselves and peace with their family’s legacy.

What is the legacy left to you by your father?

Please share your thoughts below.

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What is the next step in your life?

My goal as a therapist is to work with clients to uncover what will fulfill them in life – to begin or continue building lives that they love.

Have you ever asked yourself – “Why do people repeat certain behaviors?” I wonder if, rather than out of habit, it is it to practice something until we heal.

Of course there are behaviors that get us into trouble – especially repetitive or difficult ways of being around work, substance use, food, and relationships. Yet it is possible to begin a series of steps that shift our lives in new and more productive directions.

Please remember this: The world needs all of us, needs each of our genius and movement through the broken places we have been given or entered into in this life. At any moment, the journey towards healing begins with a single step.

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Work and Life

At our family doctor this week, I learned something that I have suspected in family counseling practice – that the way many people are working in the current economy is making us sick.  Stress has grown for many in the workplace who are either being asked to meet deadlines quicker or do more as fellow workers have been laid off.

Family therapist and author William Doherty is on the Board of Take Back Your Time that is taking a firm stand on issues concerning the American workplace and its effect on the family. Take Back Your Time cites a report by the Project on Global Working Families called “The 2007 Work, Family, and Equity Index: How Does the United States Measure Up?” This report gathered data from 177 countries representing a wide range of political, social and economic systems found that:

  • 84 countries have laws that fix a maximum limit on the work week. The U.S. does not.
  • 139 countries guarantee paid sick leave. The U.S. does not.
  • 96 countries guarantee paid annual (vacation) leave. The U.S. does not.
  • 37 countries guarantee parents paid time off when children are sick. The U.S. does not.  Plus 163 of 168 countries guarantee paid leave for mothers in connection with childbirth. 45 countries offer such leave to fathers. The U.S. does neither.

How do such policies effect the family? I saw firsthand, the effects of stress on American men when I co-facilitated mandatory domestic violence training for men who had gotten caught up in the court system. So many times, I witnessed men brought up to be breadwinners who were caught up in the “emotional box” of what their upbringings had taught them it meant to be a man. When stressors such as unemployment, under-employment, or substance abuse, combined with the high speed at which we are being asked to live at today hit, domestic difficulties and incidents resulted.

We taught these men to slow down and care for themselves. Only by putting their own wellbeing first, were these men able to make beneficial changes in their lives and relationships. As a society, we would do well to heed this message.

— Neal Brodsky

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