Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Identical Background ≠ Identical Responses

Different people need different kinds of communication for it to have the same effect. That was something I had to learn.
-Tobias Lutke

  


Sometimes life lessons come to us from interesting places. A very important life lesson came to me when I went to see “The Lion King” in camp when I was 13 years old.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, one specific scene in the movie would end up having a lifelong impact on me. Not due to the movie itself, but to the reaction that it caused two people.

But first, some background:

Camp used to take us to the movies every Friday. While we were watching movies that the camp approved for kids, the theater would also be showing the more graphic, non-camp approved movies on their other screens. We were under strict orders not to go to the other movies, or we’d be thrown out of camp.

The bus drivers who took us to the movies would also be given movie tickets (what else were they to do for the 2 hours we were watching the film?). Needless to say, given the choices of movies to watch, they always chose to watch the more graphic films.

Then it happened. One camper disobeyed the rules and ran out of “The Lion King” and went into a theater showing a rated R movie. The bus drivers happened to be there, caught him and reported him to the camp staff.

Certainly we knew what was going to happen to this kid, We were warned and we had been told there would not be any second chances.

To our surprise, the camper was not expelled.

In “The Lion King”, there is a scene when the young lion Simba witnesses his father’s death. The camper who left this movie to go see the rated R film had lost his father. His father was a member of the NYPD who was shot and killed in the line of duty. Given the backstory, the camp let the infraction slide.

This left me quite confused. Not just because the camp wasn’t following through with their warning, but because I didn’t understand the justification for leaving “The Lion King”. The reason why I could not understand was because during the film I was sitting next to a friend of mine, and he had no issues with the movie. This friend of mine lost his father to a mugging gone bad. His father was fatally shot and my friend later had to give a victim’s impact statement to the court.

So why was it understandable for the child of the police officer to leave, when my friend was able to stay with no problem? Certainly this proves that the child of the officer could have stayed, thought 13 year old me.

But that thought process is flawed.

It is flawed because people react differently.

Even if two people seem to be identical, don’t believe that they will have similar reactions to the same stimuli. As the movie shows, two children who lost their father due to a fatal gunshot each reacted differently when seeing a story about a child witnessing his father’s death.

Unfortunately, I constantly see people falling into this trap, most notably when it comes to judging victims of sexual abuse. People mistakenly think that a victim is lying because, in their eyes, the victim’s subsequent behavior isn’t how they believe a victim would (or should) act. Different victims will react differently to their victimization.

For example, some survivors will seek assistance from a friend, support group or mental health professional, while others will prefer not to share their traumatic experience with anyone else. Some will self-medicate while others will become workaholics. There are a plethora of ways that survivors attempt to cope with their trauma. Some have very different ways than others.

There are also many different mental health issues that may arise from the trauma of the abuse (e.g. attachment issues, anxiety, anger issues, just to name a few). Different people cope differently and different victims will have different issues that they’ll be struggling with post the abuse.

Sometimes the reactions aren’t just different, they are actually polar opposites.

Victims who have yet to build coping skills can easily be triggered by even the slightest touch. While others with unhealthy coping skills might utilize promiscuous behaviors as a means to minimize their trauma.

To the untrained eye (i.e. one who doesn’t understand coping skills) this appears to be two totally opposite responses to identical traumas. Different responses, even to opposite extremes, are normal as different people (even different children in the same family) will react differently to things in different way.

We need to recognize that people are different. Intervention that is successful with one person might not be successful with another. Stimuli that triggers one person might be nothing to someone else.

That’s ok. What isn’t ok is questioning whether someone is really a victim because you don’t understand their behavior.

It would have been the height of chutzpa to go over to my friend who didn't leave the movie and question whether his father was really murdered. The fact that the movie didn’t trigger him and didn’t cause him to leave doesn’t mean that his father’s death was not traumatic for him.

It is also the height of chutzpa when people do the exact same thing to abuse victims.

Don’t ever question someone’s trauma solely based on your narrow/personal/subjective view as to how someone in their position should react.

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.  
You can email Yisroel at yisroel@ympicker.com
Follow Yisroel on LinkedIn here










Monday, February 25, 2019

Looking for the Perfect One





אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל מפני מה לא נמשכה מלכות בית שאול מפני שלא היה בו שום דופי דאמר רבי יוחנן משום רבי שמעון בן יהוצדק אין מעמידין פרנס על הציבור אלא אם כן קופה של שרצים תלויה לו מאחוריו שאם תזוח דעתו עליו אומרין לו חזור לאחוריך



-מסכת יומא דף כב:




R’ Yehuda said in the name of Shmuel. Why was it that the kingdom of Shaul (Saul) did not continue? I.e. why did it not become a lasting monarchy?
Because Shaul did not have any faults [with his lineage]. For R’ Yochanan says in the name of R’ Shimon ben Yehotzadak, we do not appoint one to be a leader of people unless he has a “box of vermin hanging behind him” (what we would call skeletons in one’s closet). So that if he starts becoming haughty, we tell him, look behind you (look at where you came from i.e. your lineage)
-Yoma 22b

When it comes to looking for others to fill a role, whether it be a new employee, a spouse for oneself or one’s children, etc. People tend to look for perfection. Many end up “settling” for less than what they hoped for, others are still waiting for the “perfect one”.

The above gemarra teaches us an eye opening lesson.

Perfection is it’s own fault!!

No, it isn’t talking about perfectionism, where people have an unhealthy desire to do things perfectly. It is talking about actual perfection!

Every single person, from pauper to king needs to be able to accept constructive criticism.  The gemarra is teaching us that a king who cannot be criticized isn’t worthy of a lasting dynasty.

But to truly understand the weight of this lesson one needs to see the prior gemarra.
That’s where the gemarra discusses the holiness of King Shaul. How he was like a one year old baby, in that he never tasted sin. It is followed up by showing how R’ Nachman suffered for not showing King Shaul the proper respect.

So he never tasted sin, he was very worthy of respect, yet because he had perfect lineage, that’s why he could not have a lasting dynasty.

This teaches us two invaluable points.
1. That perfection is it’s own fault
2. That one needs to make themselves open to receive constructive criticism.
These are important lessons in all areas of life, perhaps it is most valuable in the area of shidduchim. Sometimes it is the boy or girl themselves, more often it is the parents who have a huge “checklist” of criteria that needs to be met in order for a shidduch to go through.

Just remember the gemarra in Yoma and stop searching for perfection, especially when it comes to family and yechus.

Even if you do end up finding it, you might discover that it isn't the positive that you thought it would be.


Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.
You can email Yisroel at yisroel@ympicker.com
Follow Yisroel on LinkedIn here





Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Beware the Pyrrhic Victory

"At least is was a victory and at least we won."
~ Bobby Moore


 

A Pyrrhic victory is a type of win that actually inflicts so much destruction on the victorious side that it is basically tantamount to defeat. While the side that wins a Pyrrhic victory is considered ultimately victorious, the tolls suffered work to negate the feeling of actual achievement.

This is also called a “hollow victory”.

Pyrrhic victories are not limited to war. They occur in many other areas of life.

For example, a plaintiff might win his civil suit against a defendant, but his legal costs in getting the win outweigh the amount he was awarded at trial.

Parents need to use long term thinking and goal planning to avoid causing children to chase pyrrhic victories.

Let me explain:

When parents put too much pressure on their children to accomplish specific goals, it might cause the child to use improper methods in order to achieve these goals.

So if the parent is pressuring the child to get high marks in school, the child can either study more, or they can turn to cheating. A child getting good grades due to cheating would be a pyrrhic victory. It looks as if the child is succeeding, but the child doesn’t know the material.

The child is just fooling themselves and others.

It doesn’t help the child become better, if anything, the child is now more likely to cheat next time.

When the child eventually gets caught cheating, the parents will scold him or her, but the onus here is really on the parents. When the bar is set too high for children, can a child really be blamed when they seek alternative ways to reach too high a goal?

Prior to trial, a plaintiff needs to sit down and calculate how much he will need to spend on fees and how much he is likely to collect. He does this on order to see if litigation is worth it for him. Likewise parents need to sit down and calculate where they set the bar for their child. Too low and the child is not motivated enough, too high and the child might turn to improper methods for reaching the bar.

"You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink." means that we can give someone the opportunity but you can’t force them to take it.

Just make sure you are actually giving an opportunity for success and not baiting your child to take the forbidden fruit.

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.  
You can email Yisroel at yisroel@ympicker.com
Follow Yisroel on LinkedIn here

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Comfort and Growth

“Before anything great is really achieved, your comfort zone must be disturbed.”
– Ray Lewis




Speaking is the utterance of words, communication is the delivery of words in a way that they can be understood by the listener in the way it was intended by the speaker.

Which one are you? A speaker or a communicator?

I constantly see “influencers” on social media discussing the following basic idea:
“Do something that scares you” or “Be uncomfortable”.

These are very important lessons, but like all lessons, they have their time, their place and their rules.

And like many other lessons, taken the wrong way can do more harm than good.

Meaning and Purpose:
The best way to answer this is with a story.

Pretend that you are just over a year old and your parents are trying to get you to learn to walk for the very first time. You don’t like this idea so much. You are used to crawling on all fours, limiting yourself to just your legs sounds uncomfortable.
Dad stands you on your two legs and lets go. Mom is about three yards away. Her arms are outstretched. She is begging you to walk to her and get a hug.
You want that hug more than you want anything else right now.
You want the comfort of being in mommy’s arms.
Slowly you take that first step, then the second step. You wobble a bit but never fall. It takes so so long, but eventually you walk that far distance and are now in the comfort of your mother’s arms.

The place where you want to be.

The place where all is safe.

The place where there is no growth.

You see, it was during those uncomfortable moments, that time when you were walking, you are growing. You were building new skills.

That stopped when mommy picked you up.
That’s the meaning of “leaving your comfort zone”. It means do things that add new skills to your repertoire.

Eventually the level of “scared” will become lower each time. It might even disappear.

Should I do everything that scares me?:
Doing something that scares you should be something that is goal oriented. The idea should be that you should develop a skill that you don’t yet have.

Therefore, when choosing to do something that scares you, make sure you ask yourself the following:
1. Am I hoping to attain anything from this, or is this just something to check off of the bucket list?
2. What skill/comfort am I hoping to attain from this and is this something I want to attain?
3. Am I starting at too high a level?


Example of Question 1 in action: skydiving.
I have a fear of heights. Skydiving scares me. Going skydiving won’t stop my fear of heights. I don’t want to work in any industry as a skydiver. So what will skydiving accomplish for me? Just that I told people that I once skydove. Nothing more, nothing less.

Not a very good return on an “outside your comfort zone” investment.

Example of Question 2 in action: illegal activities (let’s use arson as the example).
Being an arsonist scares people. They’re scared of the police. They’re scared of jail. They’re scared of their name being broadcast that they’re an arsonist.
Here, it is best to stay inside of their comfort zone, as the fear here is ok. The fear is what keeps them out of trouble.
The last thing one should want is to lose the fear that is stopping them from hurting property and people.

Another example of Question 2: firefighters.
Firefighters wear masks, oxygen and other equipment in order to protect themselves from the smoke, heat and fire.
To fight a major fire without equipment would be tremendously negligent.
Working with the equipment is comfortable, working with it on is not.
It would not be wise for this fireman to do something that fears him (i.e. working without his protective gear) as this fear is what motivates him to work responsibly.


Example of Question 3: e.g. learning to drive.
This is probably the biggest mistake I see people make when leaving their comfort zone.
They go too far away from it, too quickly.
Here is the example: You are learning to drive. You know how a car works, you’ve seen plenty of people use them. But this is your first time on the road. You don’t know how the car responds to your maneuvers. You have no experience using your mirrors.
This is will be your first time ever driving, and you’ll be driving in NASCAR’s signature race, the Daytona 500.

If you take the uncomfortable to the extreme, it will backlash. It will be more traumatic than educational.

So go ahead, increase your skills by doing uncomfortable things, but wisely choose WHICH things and HOW you will be doing them.

Stay away from uncomfortable things that will lead nowhere, that will lead to recklessness or will lead to more fear.
Finally, when spreading the message of expanding horizons by doing things that scare oneself, make sure your audience both knows what you mean and the above rules.

It could easily be the difference between life and death.

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.  
You can email Yisroel at yisroel@ympicker.com
Follow Yisroel on LinkedIn here


Monday, February 4, 2019

Do You See What I See?



“You see what you choose to see, because all perception is a choice. And when you cease to impose your meanings on what you see, your spiritual eyes will open, and you will see a world free of judgment and shining in its endless beauty.”

― Paul Ferrini









I try my hardest to avoid political topics in my talks and in my articles. I do so because of something that I refer to as “All-or-Nothing Syndrome”.



“All-or Nothing Syndrome” is a condition that many people have. It is the belief that if a person’s views or behaviors don’t align with yours, then that person must be wrong in other areas as well.



I hope to discuss this idea more in-depth in a future article.



In the past few month, there has been a tremendous debate in the United States about building a wall on the US-Mexican border. This debate became quite vocal this week after US Border Patrol made a record breaking drug bust. They discovered nearly 254 pounds (114 kilograms) of fentanyl (a synthetic drug) being smuggled inside secret compartment inside a load of Mexican produce heading into Arizona.



Something very interesting happened after this report. Each side of the argument felt that the report supported their position!



Those who are in favor of the wall are using this report to show that narcotics are coming in and need to be stopped. Proof that a wall needs to be built.



Those against the wall used this report to show that a wall wouldn’t have stopped this smuggling operation, as it was attempted through a port of entry. Proof that a wall is a waste.



Two sides see the same story and come to totally opposite conclusions.



Why is this?



Because when someone has an agenda, it skews they way they perceive things. People who want a wall will see events as reasons for why a wall is needed. Likewise those against the wall will see events as reasons for why a wall is useless.



The facts don’t change, just how they are perceived.



We all come from different backgrounds and different belief systems. These also affect how we perceive information. We also have our own personal agendas, whether or not we admit it.



These agendas blind us. This blindness can lead to making wrong choices for us and our families.



When we are confronted with an important situation/event that requires intervention, we need to first ask ourselves if there is a chance that we are suffering some type of bias related blindness. If we are, or even if there is a chance that we are, we should seek second and third opinions prior to implementing our desired intervention.



We are biased when it comes to ourselves.

We are biased when it comes to our family.

We are biased when it comes to our finances.



The bias is fine, but pretending that it doesn’t exist is not.



Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety. 

You can email Yisroel at yisroel@ympicker.com

Follow Yisroel on LinkedIn here

Monday, January 14, 2019

Timing is Everything


“The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing.”

Joshua Harris







There is much to be said about the education that schools give our children. For generations people have been asking why certain subjects are taught while other lessons are ignored.



Many also ask why certain life skills aren’t taught in school.



For those important lessons that kids need to learn, but aren’t being taught in school, parents have the following two choices:

Parents can teach them to their kids on their own, or they can abstain, insisting that it is the school’s job to teach such things.



One life lesson that children and adults need to learn is timing.



When is a good time? When is a bad time? How can one decipher?



My first introduction to this was my teacher in elementary school, Mr. Paul Schwartz. What made him extra special was the fact that in addition to teaching the syllabus, he also tried to teach lessons on life.



As per the rules of the school, students needed to get their parents to sign their graded tests. Whenever Mr. Schwartz would give the tests back, he would tell us the following: “For those of you guys who got a bad grade, you have 2 days to bring back the test signed. If your parents are in a bad mood or angry, don’t ask them to sign your test. Their anger might become directed at you. If they are in a good mood, that’s better, but that’s still not the best time, as you don’t really want to kill their good mood. The ideal time is if you can catch your parent in a joking mood. I’ll give you 2 days, just to ensure that you can try to catch them at the ideal time.”



That lesson was probably more important than the content that was covered in the test.



I see this time and time again.



Sadly I’m also guilty of it.



We tell our children “This is not the time!”, but do we give our children the tools for recognizing when the right time is?



Do we put time into our schedule so that they have a right time, or are we so busy that there is no “good time” for them to come to us?



There is another aspect of timing that is often ignored.



Timing is a two way street.



Not only do kids need to learn about “good timing” when it comes to communicating with their parents, parents need to utilize “good timing” when conveying important messages to their children.



Just like you won’t remember things if communicated during a “bad time”, so too your children.



Perhaps the best way to teach your child about “good timing” is through modelling.



Meaning that if we want our kids to use good timing when giving us messages, we need to make sure we use good timing when giving them messages.





Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety. 

You can email Yisroel at yisroel@ympicker.com

Follow Yisroel on LinkedIn here

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Behind the Words



"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."

-Stephen R. Covey







I failed.



There was no sugarcoating it, my friend reached out to me for help and I failed him.



We can only play the hand we are dealt. He didn’t deal me an easy hand, but that isn’t a valid excuse for my failing him.



This friend of mine is someone whom I respect. He is an absolute genius and a wonderful person.



He was already married and a father when he called me out of the blue. He wanted to ask my advice.



He felt like he was struggling with his yeshiva studies and he wanted to know what I thought about the idea of him joining a certain program. The program that he was asking about was an outreach program where one goes through a two year training period, followed by a three year period where one needs to move abroad, into a community which requires outreach.



I told him that it wasn’t for him.



I told him that his shy personality didn’t fit.



I told him a five year commitment wasn’t good for him at this stage of his life.



I told him that it wouldn’t be healthy for him and his wife to be away from their respective families.



Not to leave him empty-handed, I suggested to him to switch to a yeshiva with a different learning style (switching from nezikin to kodshim).



He thanked me, but I could tell from the way he thanked me that my words left him uncomfortable.



The next time we spoke was a few months later.



This time it was to tell me that he and his wife were getting divorced.



Then it hit me. When he called me asking about moving away to do outreach, he wasn’t asking about outreach, he was trying to let me know that he was having Shalom Bayis issues, and he just couldn’t bring himself to say it.



I didn’t put two and two together until it was too late.



Often I talk about getting people to use their voice. Using one’s voice isn’t just referring to the physical action of speaking. It also includes the ability to choose the correct words, and conveying them to the correct individual.



There are two possible reasons for why my friend didn’t outwardly mention his Shalom Bayis (marriage) issue with me earlier.

Either he was scared/uncomfortable or he himself was in denial about the main issue (marriage trouble) and he only saw the results of the issue, namely the learning.



If only I had dug deeper and not taken his question at face value.



The plot of this story is a common plot when it comes to children.



Often children will have a problem and they will be either too afraid to mention their issue, or perhaps they know there is an issue, but they don’t know the main issue. (e.g. The issue was the marriage, but all that was presented to me was the learning issues)



They will then come to the parent suggesting a remedy. (e.g. Joining the outreach program and move abroad for 3 years)



What do you do?



Do you take the question on face value?

Do you listen to their suggested solution and offer an opinion on it without knowing what it is a remedy for?



In the case of my friend, his suggested remedy would not have helped him. He would have had the same marriage issue, only now he would have already have signed himself to a 5 year commitment.



Your child’s suggestion could very well have the same issue. If you don’t know the problem how can you possibly believe that the solution would work?



Don’t be afraid to dig deeper. Get your child to open up, and if you aren’t succeeding in getting them to open up, connect them with someone who can.





Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety. 

You can email Yisroel at yisroel@ympicker.com

Follow Yisroel on LinkedIn here