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MoPOP at dusk, Seattle

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Family Triangles


We had an amazing meal this weekend with two other couples at a private residence. One of our dinner mates functions as some sort of executive psychologist and has a roster of very important companies that he counsels. Bob is really good at what he does and possesses a very kind soul. An italian mensch.

Because these were a group of very intimate friends, the conversation wandered over somehow to the delicate area of childhood. My own view has always been that most adults were formed before the age of seven and that most of us are not much more than a big bucket of assorted wounds and neurosis. I've always been a pessimistic, glass half empty kind of guy.

We started talking to Bob about his work in the field and he introduced Leslie and I to the work of Paul Brenner, one of his mentors. Brenner is an ob/gyn who went on to the field of oncology. At some point he earned a Phd in psychology. He now works as a psychosocial oncologist where he sees patients and he also runs cancer, caregiver and grief support groups. The man is on to something big.

Brenner has written the books Health is a Question of Balance, Seeing Your Life Through New Eyes, and Buddha in the Waiting Room.  He has developed an educational process that he calls family triangles. By the way, Brenner also has a blog, one which I have not had adequate time to explore.

Bob suggested that we run through a short exercise with family triangles. You list some positive attributes regarding each of your parents that were valid when you were between the ages of two and twelve. Then you write down the personal needs that your parents left unmet during that period. Bob, in a deft cerebral sleight of hand, showed us how some of our own inner traits were actually formed as coping mechanisms to offset our parents influence. And introduced us to the concept of finding a way to utilize these coping skills in order to understand and modify our behavior. Because the same skills that helped us to survive in childhood can also create their own set of problems.

I have to say that this was one of the most powerful sessions I have ever been part of and the other participant was equally affected. Bob helped us seize on some things that are near impossible for a bearer to identify. We do not typically sit around and dwell on these sorts of pursuits, and I can see how I open myself up to ridicule by even attempting to discuss it. Yet it was a powerful tool that helped me identify some of my own heretofore unrecognized behavior patterns and I really am glad that Bob worked with us.

I see no need to fully illustrate my epiphany or catalogue my newfound inner failures for you. We can talk in person. In any case, I am really looking forward to reading the Seeing your life through new eyes book soon. I want to thank Bob for the session. It seriously opens up a whole new zone of exploration.

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