Aug 202014

Today’s guest author is my 16-year-old “bonus son” who has spent another summer with us, creating more new “family stories and legends.”

My name is Luis. I am half-German and half-American. I grew up in Berlin, Germany and, of course, spoke only German. Even though my Dad speaks only English, we had good visits when I was growing up: I got to see his world in the U.S. and he got to see some of Berlin. We had a strong connection but no direct, untranslated verbal communication.

Like all kids in Berlin, I started learning English in the 3rd grade. I never felt like being lazy about it. I wanted to communicate directly with my Dad. Even though I had not yet met all of them, knowing that I had a large, extended American family gave me even more motivation and discipline.


[Tweet “My desire to know my American family has been important in developing my love of language.”]

Learning a new language meant — and still means — entering a whole new world. All the experiences that come with being immersed in another culture become both easier and more intense.

My extended American family did not know me either and they did not help with my actual studies but the desire to know them has been important in developing my love of language. I am in the 11th grade and, in addition to English, am learning three more languages.

Languages are the doors to new cultures and their people… vacations and their unique experiences and special moments. These things can become knowledge and wisdom… family stories and legends.  Coming to America each summer improves my English and deepens my connection to this part of my family and my American roots.

Now when we spend time together I’m as likely as anyone to start the flood of family stories by saying, “Remember the time….”


[Tweet “These things can become knowledge & wisdom,  family stories & legends.”]

Aug 132014



Spinosaurus - 04

Spinosaurus – 04 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


“You can’t do that — you’re not good enough, smart enough, tall enough, pretty enough….” or “What do you mean you’re not signing your kids up for soccer, art appreciation and Conversational Mandarin? How are they going to keep up?”   It’s back: the Inner Critic chatter with the power to turn even the most competent parent into a quivering mess.

The pain of Inner Critic chatter is common:  writers dread “the Inner Editor” and folks in the recovery community speak of “the Addict in the Attic.”  Regardless of our primary role on a given day, there’s some form of the relentlessly self-critical voice in our heads available to shake our confidence.

As parents we seem especially vulnerable to the part of the brain so good at fault-finding and the amplification of fear.  It makes sense:

  • all parents want what’s best for their kids: protecting them from harm is part of that
  • having children seems to wake up (or intensify) the ability to perceive threat
  • much of our power to perceive danger lives in the “old brain”
  • primitive instincts don’t always mesh well with modern circumstance

It helps to recognize that critical inner voice as part the hard-wired early warning system we share with any species that has survived.  That’s both good and bad news:  it’s not going away but we can learn to manage it.[Tweet “Primitive instincts don’t always mesh well with our modern circumstances…”]

Next time your Inner Critic roars,  stop and check in with yourself.  What, specifically, is stressing you that moment?  Then, give your Inner Critic its due. How might you be interpreting that stress as a threat to the survival of you or your loved ones?

Let’s return to the after-school example.  Faced with a full schedule and a child is pining after lots of pricey options, you set a limit and choose one.  Immediately “that voice” starts. You’re tempted to second guess.

Instead of questioning your worth, try asking yourself a question like this:  have I internalized a message that Conversational Mandarin (or one of the other choices) is absolutely essential to earning a living in the future? Or that my child won’t have the same earning opportunities as other kids?  Now translate that message for your primitive brain where “earning” equals “eating.”

Does your anxiety about the decision make a little more sense now?  That primitive part of the brain has decided that this is a “life or death” decision.  It probably isn’t… so you can thank your Inner Critic ….and move on to school supplies!

[Tweet “Thank your #InnerCritic and move on to buying school supplies!”]



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alcoholic clown

alcoholic clown (Photo credit: Nach0 Navarro)


“I found the course useful and engaging.  Despite having courses that covered similar issues in college I was able to pick up new information.  I found the development of relationships activity helpful in knowing, or at least being aware of where patient/staff conversations should stop to avoid crossing boundaries.”

“I liked the idea that it is OK (and professionally appropriate) to wear only one “hat” at a time.  I can allow people to stop expecting me to be a…. therapist, analyst, educator, transporter, religious guru, magician…..”


Staff comments from addiction treatment counselor training series presented at residential treatment  facility for women

Thanks!  I thought you were a pretty wonderful group.