Here is a little of my writing. I want to share some things I believe are importand and helpful. These are things I learned mostly through life and my own studies and research. My writing is a combination of theory and practical techniques or tools.
This site is under constuction. If you like what I have so far, please let me know to encourage me to keep workking on it :) - Paul
|My Theory of Life
My theory of life is based on the idea that we humans have both physical and emotional needs, and that most social problems and pain in what we call the developed countries come from unmet or unsatisfied emotional needs.
Some of these emotional needs are to feel accepted, appreciated, cared about, free, respected, safe/secure, trusted, understood, valued.
I began to develop my theory when I lived in the USA and looked at all the problems there. I decided the problems were not from a lack of material or physical things, nor from a lack of religion or what is called spirituality. I saw people who needed to feel more powerful, more important, more in control. They seemed never to be able to get enough of these emotional needs to satisfy them. I concluded that we need to fill the emotional needs of children so they are not emotionally needy or emotionally "hungry" (or starving) as adults.
To help fill or satisfy children's emotional needs, (or anyone else's emotional needs) we must identify each need specifically and somehow measure it to find out if it is filled or not. Or more precisely, to what degree or level is each need filled or met?
is similar to knowing how full the gas tank is in a car.
Is it empty, full or half full? Or we could say is it 0%,
100% or 50% full? For that, we have the gas gauge. We
also have a temperature gauge in a car that tells us when
the engine is getting too hot.
Only we can know just what we need,
just like only we know just how much water we need till
we do not feel thirsty anymore. No one else can tell us
that. They can estimate, but they will never be as
accurate as we are.
Note - "Washing up" is what the Australians call "doing the dishes" in the USA.
At around 7 AM one morning, a mother wanted her 10 year old daughter, Annabelle, to wash the dishes before going to school. But Annabelle did not want to wash them, so she and her mother were arguing. The mother was trying everything she could think of to get Annabelle change her mind, including threatening and bribing her daughter, but nothing was working and the mother was getting increasingly frustrated.
I offered to help by talking to Annabelle and they both accepted my help.
Here is how our talk went:
By the way, at some point when we were talking I noticed that she actually had started washing the dishes.
After she told me she didn't feel trusted I checked again to see how much she felt understood by me. This time it was a perfect 10 and the dishes were finished too!
But that is not the end of this story. The mother later told me that when she was in the car on the way to school Annabelle voluntarily apologized to her for giving her such a hard time. The mother apologized in return and they both accepted the other's apology. They then then shared a few tears and a loving hug.
Zebra - A father gives his daughter the gift of understanding
From John Gottman's chapter on "The five steps to emotion coaching" p. 69, 70
I remember the day I first discovered how emotion coaching might work with my own daughter, Moriah. She was two at the time and we were on a cross-country flight home after visiting with relatives. Bored, tired, and cranky, Moriah asked me for Zebra, her favourite stuffed animal and comfort object. Unfortunately, we had absentmindedly packed the well-worn critter in a suitcase that was checked at the baggage counter.
"Im sorry, honey, but we cant get Zebra right now. Hes in the big suitcase in another part of the plane," I explained.
"I want Zebra," she whined pitifully.
"I know, sweetheart. But Zebra isnt here. Hes in the baggage compartment underneath the plane and Daddy cant get him until we get off the plane. Im sorry."
"I want Zebra! I want Zebra!" she moaned again. Then she started to cry, twisting in her safety seat and reaching futilely toward a bag on the floor where shed seen me go for snacks.
"I know you want Zebra," I said, feeling my blood pressure rise.
"But hes not in that bag. Hes not here and I cant do anything about it. Look, why dont we read about Ernie," I said, fumbling for one of her favourite picture books.
"Not Ernie!" She wailed, angry now. "I want Zebra. I want him now!
By now, I was getting "do something" looks from the passengers, from the airline attendants, from my wife, seated across the aisle. I looked at Moriahs face, red with anger, and imagined how frustrated she must feel. After all, wasnt I the guy who could whip up a peanut butter sandwich on demand? Make huge purple dinosaurs appear with the flip of a TV switch? Why was I withholding her favourite toy from her? Didnt I understand how much she wanted it?
I felt bad. Then it dawned on me: I couldnt get Zebra, but I could offer the next best thinga fathers comfort.
"You wish you had Zebra now," I said to her.
"Yeah," she said sadly.
"And youre angry because we cant get him for you."
"You wish you had Zebra right now," I repeated, as she stared at me, looking rather curious, almost surprised.
"Yeah," she muttered. "I want him now,"
"Youre tired now, and smelling Zebra and cuddling with him would feel real good. I wish we had Zebra here so you could hold him. Even better, I wish we could get out of these seats and find a big, soft bed full of all your animals and pillows where we could just lie down."
"Yeah," she agreed.
"We cant get Zebra because hes in another part of the airplane," I said "That makes you feel frustrated."
"Yeah," she said with a sigh.
"Im sorry," I said, watching the tension leave from her face. She rested her head against the back of her safety seat. She continued to complain softly a few more times, but she was growing calmer. Within a few minutes, she was asleep.
Although Moriah was just two years old, she clearly knew what she wantedher Zebra. Once she began to realize that getting it wasnt possible, she wasnt interested in my excuses, arguments, or my diversions. My validation, however, was another matter. Finding out that I understood how she felt seemed to make her feel better. For me, it was a memorable testament to the power of empathy.
Note: I would just change one thing about this story. I would say that John didn't just give his daughter "the next best thing." I would say he gave his daughter something even better -- her father's understanding. - P. Hein
|Youth Suicide Prevention
Note about youth suicide.
I have worked as a volunteer listening to and documenting the stories of extremely depressed and suicidal youth. I have collected some of these stories into a book. Here is the introduction to that book. If you would like a text copy of the entire book, please let me know.
I have given talks and workshops on this topic to schools in several countries. Here are a few of the points from my talks
- People who are depressed and self-harm or talk about suicide are not "crazy."
- What helps them the most is when someone listens to them, shows understanding and cares about them.
- What does not help is pressuring them, threatening them, or even trying to cheer them up.
The best prevention I have found so far is a network of peer support, in other words supportive friends of approximately their own age. A problem is, though, that friends are normally untrained and unskilled in the best ways to help. The result is they may sometimes make mistakes in helping even when they have the best of intentions. So one of my goals is to help design youth training courses in areas such as emotional literacy, emotional needs and listening skills.
Here is a list of things that "undepress" me when I feel depressed myself...