Monday, March 27, 2017

ACLU, Integrity and Child Discipline

The opportunity to imbue one's self with wisdom may be anachronistic to the task at hand but nonetheless adds value to one's behavioural repertoire. Such was the case when I retrieved my mail today. I again received a membership renewal notice from the American Civil Liberties Union. I took pause to consider the implicit statement of integrity this piece of mail attributes to the ACLU and its correlation to behavioural conditioning. Boldly written across the header of this correspondence is "FINAL MEMBERSHIP RENEWAL STATEMENT" which has appeared on similar mailings that I received approximately bi-monthly since my membership expired at the conclusion of the year 2014. This leaves me to wonder about the definition of "final" as well as the integrity of an organization which proclaims to have made a "final" statement yet has sent duplicates no less than on 10 additional occasions.

This behaviour reminds me of the frustrated parents who berate their children with attached "final" warnings spewed ad nausea who then bemoan the child's procrastination. These parents attribute the lack of compliance to fault or character deficiencies of the child. Actually, though, these children are expressing a conditioned response consistent with the training by the parent. These children have learned that "final" or "last" means approximately 20 times prior to the terminus which is usually accompanied by physical compulsion. Not unlike myself, most children do not appreciate being nagged.

Once the ACLU demonstrates firmness in their declaration of finality and ceases the nagging I will fire away my payment to them and get my membership renewed. Once parents demonstrate integrity by holding firm and being honest in their statements of intent and consequence then a corresponding behavioural response will erupt from the children.

Doubt that it will work? Try this. Tell the child to, by a particular time, cease using some specific electronic device or whatever is the means of impedance to initiating the fulfillment of a requested task Then if that time passes without compliance retrieve the object without warning or statement, take it out to the road and, smash it with a sledgehammer, brick or whatever is handy. Ask the child to clean up the mess and then perform the requested task. Next time a task is requested make it while holding the means of destruction in your hand and observe the child's peppy compliance.

This is the conditioned response of classical conditioning which Pavlov made famous using a dog, a bell, and food. The dog became conditioned to salivate upon hearing the bell because it knew food was soon to follow. Children response remarkably well to conditioning.

This anecdote provides a good example of operant conditioning. When my son was a youngster I took him to the home of three friends who we were going to take to the ice cream park in town. I go chat with the mother for awhile while my son goes to play with his friends. Sounds of a demolition crew are coming from the bedroom they are in which is accompanied by rattling walls. Every few moments the mother would shout at them to "stop jumping on the bed or else." After this occurred a few times with only a very brief cessation of the ruckus each time I gracefully walked to the bedroom doorway and leaned against the frame. One by one the children saw me and sat down with legs crossed. Once all were patiently looking me in the eye I asked if they were to be jumping on the bed and three responded no, as predicted, and the other indicated that he was unsure. Then I asked if they had heard the mother say to stop: to which all replied affirmatively. I then said sounds sure enough to me, told my son to get in the car, and we left. We got home and he was given the choice to study or sit quietly doing nothing. They learned that compliance with my rules brings a reward while defiance results in a denial of reward or punishment.

These children all demonstrated the expected response from their conditioning. That mother rarely got off her ass to enforce her demands until she had already uttered them at least 10 times. I, alternatively, took the approach of you were once made aware of the rules, had demonstrated previous knowledge of and compliance, and you would not get a warning that you were not in compliance. A short time before that bed jumping incident these three children had accompanied my son and I on a 45 minuted journey to the Putt-Putt course in Lafayette. As we neared town one screamed that the another was touching her. So, I responded that yelling is not permitted in my car and that no one is to be touching anyone else unless invited. Then I asked if they understood and to repeat the command which they did.

As I was pulling money out of my wallet to pay for our games I heard, "Let go of me!" I turned around, told them to get back in the car, drove back to their house in dead silence, went in to tell the mother why they were back so soon, then told them "bye". My son and I went on to do some other activity that he wanted to do as he had played no role in the offense.

Children are quite adept at performing as requested. Most of the frustration parents feel from unruly children comes from their failure to properly instill discipline; their conditioning of the children. Now if the ACLU would demonstrate some honesty and integrity in their membership solicitations I could renew.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Make a suggestion for me to write about.

Parents who would like to achieve the best outcome for their children in a contested child custody case should visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me. Attorneys may request a free consultation to learn how I can maximize their advocacy for their clients.

Connect with me for the latest Indiana child custody related policy considerations, findings, court rulings and discussions.

View Stuart Showalter's profile on LinkedIn

Subscribe to my child custody updates

* indicates required
©2008, 2014 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Reducing conflict, dissonance, and hypocrisy among your thoughts and actions

Today I seek to explore the root of conflict and offer a strategy on how to reconcile thoughts and actions to minimize potential conflict. I do not intend to address the type of conflict that arises from difference of opinion or beliefs. Rather, I propose that incongruity between personally expressed ideas and actions are the primary basis of systemic conflict. The type of conflict that one experiences with systems, societal norms, and in one's mind about self and fulfillment. If you have been traversing our worldly landscape for a period that extends back to the political correctness movement then you will likely recall the backlash against it. That was because people couldn't behave in a PC manner without feeling conflicted. The response to that dissonance was to denounce the PC movement.

I will illustrate this concept through something that we have all likely witnessed; law enforcement officers violating the laws they swore to follow and uphold. It can be irritating to a driver who has been ticketed for speeding to be driving at or slightly above the speed limit to have an out-of-service police car fly past. Such an act may draw the ire of the lawful [at that moment] driver who did not swear to observe the law. This is what can lead to police-civilian conflict and lack of respect for police, especially when such acts are viewed as pervasive. The thought of a double standard leads to an 'us and them' state-of-mind which produces conflict.

The most dramatic demonstration of this community duality and the degree to which it has become entrenched which I have been able to observe is the Rodney King beating incident. There, law enforcement officers from four agencies passively observe a small armed gang mercilessly beat a defenseless civilian whose members were later convicted of the crime.

Before the four police officers were convicted in a federal court they were acquitted in the state court. Following that acquittal were three days of mayhem - rioting, looting, arson - in primarily black neighborhoods. This mayhem was responded to by police with the same casual non-intervention approach taken during King's beating. The rioting erupted because of that "us and them" mentality and the double standard applied by the jury. The police held true to form by not intervening because fellow officers were not in jeopardy nor was it occurring in a region of the city primarily occupied by white people. As a news crew was filming the scene driver Reginald Deny was pulled from his truck and beaten while police made no effort to intervene on his behalf.

Now ask yourself if that had that been a cop pulled from his cruiser and beaten would the response have been the same. If your inclination is "no" then you are experiencing the basis of the conflict of which I speak. You are feeling that there is disparate treatment: a double standard.

Intrinsic conflict is not necessarily this blatant. The two scenarios I previously described occur on a micro-level and are therefore more readily realized consciously. In moving to the macro-level the conflict occurring among broader concepts may not be so readily apparent.

Humans as a specie have long had a self-sense of superiority within the animal kingdom and an exalted sense of self-worth and importance in the known universe. This is seen within the various interventions within natural systems which tend to operate less efficiently than the natural system and often to the detriment of the organisms within the natural system.

One of the clearest examples to me which may be overlooked by most people due to societal scripting is the push to spay or neuter pets. The Humane Society of the United States claims, "The decision to spay or neuter your pet . . . can be the single best decision you make for his long-term welfare." They also cite benefits such as a reduction in the number of homeless pets killed, improved health of the animals, improved behavior, and reduced cost of care.

Human intellectual elitism is markedly misplaced when this scenario is viewed on the macro scale; animal reproductive bahviour. Humans have denied to animals their reproductive liberty and have decided which animals are fit to reproduce and which shall be denied that liberty. These eugenics programs which are playing god or Hitler, whichever you choose, have been abject failures. The result has been a high rate of homelessness among the selectively bred animals. Not only is the rate for these animals the highest in the animal kingdom but the very creatures who so proudly boast of their achievements in eugenics programs likewise have a higher rate of homelessness than even the much maligned rats. So, that sense of self-aggrandizing and intellectual superiority gets blown away when you measure something as simple as a species ability to shelter itself.

Another scenario is self-imposed trauma. While as a specie we tend to laud ourselves for our technical advancements and innovations which mitigate or reduce trauma we often overlook our position as inducer. Take highway passenger automobiles for instance. Anti-lock brakes, air-bags, and collapsible body construction design have all reduced the trauma from collisions. So, apparently we are wise or intelligent? Who operated the vehicles that resulted in a crash? Better yet, who invented the things? The other creatures within the earthly fauna don't produce trauma inducing devices as humans have done. Similarly, legitimate healthcare providers now readily concede that about 95% of all human cancers are self-inflicted. Another thing other animals do not engage in nearly as much as humans.

Rationalizing, which is a way of justifying an action to ameliorate the dissonance produced by the internal conflict resulting from the act, is achieved by making the action subjective on a micro-level. Try taking a matter and viewing it on a macro-level. Try prohibitions on student clothing with alcohol advertisements. That falls under the greater category of exposure to alcohol images or marketing. Exposure to alcohol images falls under the umbrella of stimulus which can induce one to engage in compulsive alcohol consumption. This places compulsive alcohol consumption into the domain of ailments which are deliberately selected. There is a segment of society, however, which claims that compulsive alcohol consumption - labeled alcoholism - is a disease whose acquisition is beyond the control of the individual who can only suppress its effects. Thus, a person who advocates alcohol image prohibitions on student clothing but simultaneously claims that a disease such as alcoholism exists lives in conflict. If alcoholism is a disease then marketing prohibitions are akin to saying that if we do not use, in any form, the word hepatitis or display of its image then the spread of that disease will cease.

Food processing, as in the type that out body does, is something to which a macro view may be novel to you. We tend to readily concede that food consumption in public is acceptable social behaviour with social graces becoming more constrictive throughout the process. Beginning with salivating, such as Pavlov's Dog, down through eating, eructations, peristaltic sounds, flatulence, urination, and finally defecation these digestive events become less socially acceptable. So, in the macro sense, defecating is no different than salivating or eating; all part of the bodily nourishment process. There are people viewed as psychologically aberrant who have social eating anxiety that are anxious when eating in public because some subconsciously have this macro view. On the opposite end is those who take no issue with being viewed while expelling food waste. I suppose that those of us who have been in prison or the military are more likely to reside toward that end of the spectrum.

It is these macro-level conflicts that our subconscious experiences without our effort to bring them into conscious thought. It is subconscious experience that provides the basis for our conscious behaviour. An individual may find himself or herself choosing to sit toward a more secluded area in a restaurant or glancing about before placing food in the mouth without realizing this is based upon the macro body nourishment view. This will additionally manifest itself through interpersonal relationships and effect one's general mental health. By living a life in which thoughts and actions are not aligned we are not at ease. That is, we are in a state of disease.

You may achieve greater tranquility in your life if you are reticent to accept the status quo, question the motives behind the messages posited by societal scripting and analyze your thoughts and actions on a macro-level rather than a micro-level.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Make a suggestion for me to write about.

Parents who would like to achieve the best outcome for their children in a contested child custody case should visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me. Attorneys may request a free consultation to learn how I can maximize their advocacy for their clients.

Connect with me for the latest Indiana child custody related policy considerations, findings, court rulings and discussions.

View Stuart Showalter's profile on LinkedIn

Subscribe to my child custody updates

* indicates required
©2008, 2014 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Love, Marriage and Successful Relationships

In Western culture the image of young couples in love stepping into marital bliss is ubiquitous. During my 30 plus years of experiencing loving relationships and 10 years of counseling parents through marital discord or divorce I have made some keen observations about love, marriage, and successful relationships that I will share during this rationation.

In sharp contrast to the romantic norms of Western culture is the practice of honour killings in the Middle East. There, parents may kill their child for engaging in love based copulation instead of forsaking such until consummating an arranged marriage. Such love based acts are said to bring shame upon the family.

So where does love properly belong on the spectrum of marital motivations and what shall spouses do about loving relationships? I do not propose that there is a natural standard wherein that point lies.

Clearly love-at-first-sight, lust at-first-sight, or infatuation-at-first-site can form the basis of attraction. But the distinction between these must be finely attenuated as the expectations, subsequent acts, and potential for longevity vary greatly among them.

Many a marriage is based upon purported love and dies upon the waning of it or perceived transgression. Love is difficult to define generically and even when limiting a definition to a distinct form such as the love for mankind, your child, or the passing stranger who becomes a primary interest. It does seem as though certain characteristics are uniformly applicable; unconditional acceptance, forgiveness, empathy, and selflessness directed to the object of love.

In distressed or broken marriages I see some or all of those characteristics lacking. In some cases they may not have existed in the relationship. What some may call love could have actually been lust or infatuation. Another set-back is the promise of loving throughout one's remaining life and denying similar love to all others. Both, I contend, are absurdities.

Love is immutable. It cannot be suppressed by tradition or institution. Likewise, while it should be directed to the essence of a person rather than expressed behavioural traits a manifest essence is not fixed throughout a person's lifetime.

My early romance based relationships which I call loveships were likely infatuations and as hormonal influences increased were lustful. During adolescence loveships are quite possible but the clumsy fumbling around what actually constitutes love and gleaning one’s essence ultimately leads to break-ups of passionate loveships.

While I had some steady girlfriends in high school that were loving relationships true love was aroused in me my sophomore year. That is when I found a love-at-first-sight woman who maintained a steady loveship with me until she relocated five years later. She and her husband loved each other dearly. While he was away for long periods pursuing his career she lamented his absence.

On one such occasion around midnight while we were lying in bed looking through photo albums and sipping wine he called. As her call was reaching its conclusion I reached for the phone and her hand immediately grasped my mouth. My perplexed expression was met with the statement, "If he knew you were here now he would kick your ass into next week." I was bewildered as to why my friend would be upset with me.

I loved the woman to whom he was married and she loved me. We accepted each other unconditionally. We gave of ourselves to each other. I was at their house when they came home with their newborn daughter who would become the recipient of my first diaper changing. I was at their house nearly daily when he was gone but much less frequently when he returned. I provided companionship, support, and loving embraces or snuggling to his wife during those times when he wasn't there to do so. I was supplemental to him, for her. I was doing him one great big favour. So it seemed.

After more life experience I came to realize why she said he would kick my ass into next week if he knew I was with her at midnight. It may have been next month had he known we were lying in bed snuggling.

That is based upon an expectation of exclusivity though. Something I clearly find confounding. As I stated previously love is immutable. It is a conclusion of the subconscious mind not a rational decision of the objective conscious mind. Its nature is reflexive. Thus, to say it is forbidden or should be suppressed is unnatural and unrealistic. This, I feel, leads to forbidden love as a popular subject of drama, notably Romeo and Juliet.

My favourite actress and childhood crush is Audrey Hepburn. Her break-out role as princess of an unspecified country in Roman Holiday illustrates the nature of love. There she abandons her role as princess and engages in a whirlwind affair for a day with an American journalist played by Gregory Peck. Unbeknown to her he knows who she is and has been assigned to interview her. They demonstrate a strong emotional bond throughout the film. SPOILER ALERT - The third act returns her to her role as princess and Peck as journalist who both pretend to be unknown to each other. Hepburn astonishingly portrays the pangs of making the selection of returning to her role as princess or going forward with a loving relationship with Peck. She opts to follow her predetermine role as a political representative of her country. The viewer is left to determine whether love-at-first-sight was represented or was it just an infatuation that provided a loving respite from the haughty and demanding role as princess.

Prohibitions on love can cause intense mental anguish and conflict within existing relationships such as marriage. Hence, it seems to me to be at odds upon taking an oath to love the imminent spouse to then follow that by inducing such pangs of the mind when a loveship develops by expecting love to be exclusive to spouse.

I now explore whether exclusivity of love is a realistic expectation within marriage and is love a rational basis for marriage.

I tend to avoid using the phrase falling in love in favour of love or growth of affection. Semantics aside I propose that love should not be the basis of marriage. For if one can fall in love then one can rebound from that descent or fall out of love catapulting the marriage into disarray if love is its foundation.

Marriage is a contractual agreement which should be based upon rational deliberation. There is an offer made, an acceptance, consideration, and reciprocal obligations. Marriages are legally dissolved under contract law. Thus, marriage is like any other business partnership. The goals, considerations and obligations, and the anticipated path the relationship is expected to take should be agreed upon prior to consummating the agreement as the partners are legally bound. Mutual love is not a proper consideration upon which the agreement should be based but rightfully is proper as a binding agent between the partners.

Love is an emotional manifestation. Love-at-first-sight is an actual occurrence which is demonstrative of the power of the subconscious. If you have experienced this you are aware of your inability to rationally quantify the bases for that love. Likewise, you are aware that it can happen spontaneously. Clearly then it is irrational to expect or promise exclusivity of love. Partners in a secure relationship should not feel threatened by spontaneous love and any subsequent loveship nor should it be prohibited.

When my son first entered preschool I experienced spontaneous love upon seeing another mother walking her child to the door. Within a year we were spending days together on a near daily basis while her husband was at work. I often stayed around in the evening preparing dinner with her and then we would all play cards afterward. Sometimes I would stay overnight. I also loved her sister and eventually lived with her for awhile but that was much later. It does give pause for consideration of what must be the components in my mind that determine love.

This couple did not have what I considered to be a healthy relationship. Marriage for them was thrust upon them as a result of pregnancy. The pregnancy was a result of carnal lust. The pro genesis to marriage of this type often fails to meet what I propose are the proper premarital considerations. Rather, theirs appeared to be pedantic, following Western cultural expectations. Yet, she and I had a loveship. She wanted to fully experience life with me and one day mentioned that she wanted me to be a second husband to her.

I was stunned to arrive at her home one morning to a greeting of, "Well I asked him last night" to which I responded, "What?" That is when she revealed that her aforementioned desire was the subject of her query to him. As expected his response was a firm no.

So our loveship continued basically as day-spouses. Additionally there were those times when they would argue and she would come sleep in the living room with me. This arrangement seemed somewhat amiss to me. Being a husband figure with all the attending interactions had been squelched but engaging in pillow talk as we drift into our slumber was acceptable. My bewilderment is further boosted by scenarios such as when I came over one morning, got into bed, started to strip off my clothes and she told me not to do that. I said don't be silly, it's not like I am going to lose control and jump you to which she responded, "I know, but i will."

Sexual relations provide a bright line demarcation for many. Not surprising to me it did for that couple for their marriage was conceived upon sexual relations. But sexual relations, especially the lack of exclusivity, tend to be the distinction between spouse and other while also being the trigger for breakdown of a marriage. Likewise, the potential for sexual relations between spouse and other triggers a defensive response, predominantly in males.

In my years of counseling and interviewing hundreds of current or former spouses I have found that sexual relations outside of marriage are viewed differently by gender. This is logical as evolutionarily it has been beneficial to males to maintain the sexual exclusivity of their mates while females can benefit from mate shopping. Men tend to not want their wives in the unaccompanied presence of other males but appear not to be threatened by non-sexual relations. Women, however, tend to feel betrayed by having the attention of their husbands drawn to another regardless of whether there is a sexual element to the relationship. That is, they tend to be threatened by a budding emotional relationship.

Specifically I recall relationships with three other wives over the years whose husbands didn't want me at home with their wives while they were away. Yet, long phone conversations during the day met no resistance and I was readily welcomed to accompany them as a couple. At some point all three had complained, with an undertone of betrayal, to me of their husbands "talking" to some other woman with no indication that a sexual affair was present or likely to occur. This provides insight into marital motivations of these couples. I hesitate to apply them generally as it may just be that women in marriages meetings these dynamics may be attracted to my personality type.

In those marriages the men appear motivated by reproductive surety while the women seem to place a greater emphasis on being the object of affection. In my marriage this was profoundly demonstrated following the birth of our son who became the central focus of my life and great affection. Although I think I have plenty of affection to go around his mother still became dangerously resentful of him as an object of my affection. This led to the demise of our marriage. Similarly, those other three marriages also ended in divorce.

To me this is supporting evidence for my proposition that marriage should be approached as though it is a business partners. It is imperative that the partners have complementary goals, consideration, and expectations. In premarital counseling I ask the potential partners to list these specifically. I also ask those in marital counseling to do the same.

There is a current wife with which I have a fond loveship. I tried not to based upon some of her observed behaviours, particularly the cigarette smoking. But, alas, that was an effort in futility. We love each other. She loves her husband. Their marriage is in distress. Their contributions to, expectations of, and global perspective on their marriage are separated by a wide chasm.

I regularly find her in distress and overwhelmed. I desire to take her away from all that ails her. I want to provide comfort to her and be a steadfast pillar of support for her. I want to share in life experiences. I want to give of myself to serve her. In short, I want to give her everything she expects and desires in a husband. But, I won't seek for her to be my wife. I won't broach that potential. Our specific marital traits are not nearly aligned enough to make that potential viable. Being rationally based, marriage is not ripe for consideration for us. Emotionally though we do love each other. Early in our relationship I once said, "I want to be inside of you." In conforming to my expectation she appeared aghast. To which I noted her response being consistent with societal assumptions and then explained that I wanted to explore her mind. I wanted to know why I love her. I wanted to know what makes her tick. She revealed that as a young child when she was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up she replied, "A thinker." That is with whom I want to spend my remaining days - a thinker. But as I also said she loves her husband. She loves her husband even though he is not meeting her emotional needs nor fulfilling her expectations of spouse.

The rational person may then want to ask that which I have heard so often, "Why do you love him?" Parents, siblings, and friends readily ask their child, sibling, or friend in a hostile or unfulfilled relationship to justify their love for the mate who is seen as the root of the problem. This also is an effort in futility. Love is an emotion. One that is immutable. It is not subject to deliberate rationalization.

I contend that love resides solely in the domain of emotion and should not be viewed objectively. Therefore, it is not the proper basis for a marriage, it should not be exclusive to a marriage, it should not be inhibited, and, it can compel one to remain in a hostile marriage that one would have otherwise dissolved. Successful relationships are based upon rational considerations and secured through love.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Make a suggestion for me to write about.

Parents who would like to achieve the best outcome for their children in a contested child custody case should visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me. Attorneys may request a free consultation to learn how I can maximize their advocacy for their clients.

Connect with me for the latest Indiana child custody related policy considerations, findings, court rulings and discussions.

View Stuart Showalter's profile on LinkedIn

Subscribe to my child custody updates

* indicates required
©2008, 2016 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.