Rabbi Yehuda Krohn, Psy.D.NEFESH International Publications and Information
Welcome to the November issue of Mind Body & Soul, titled “staying the course”. The term “staying the course” may not be familiar to everyone.
Staying the course, in its most literal sense, refers to those on a sea journey, facing forces – be they powerful storms, loss of power, or even pirates – that jeopardize their reaching an intended destination. A skilled traveler calmly adjusts in a manner that realigns the journey with its intended course. Staying the course is how a traveler ultimately achieves their destination, even if not with the ease and/or speed they’d originally expected.
Beyond actual travel, staying the course is relevant, at a personal level, to those who are striving toward a spiritual, educational, or financial goal. If or when they encounter setbacks, it’s about not getting distracted, not losing the motivation to proceed. In relationships, staying the course means facing unanticipated tensions, unmet needs, and disappointments, with neither bolting from the relationship nor despairing of improvement.
In this issue of Mind Body & Soul, Esther Gendelman zeroes in on how people with multiple roles can steel themselves to stay the course, even when facing rejection. Pamela Siller advises clients experiencing tension or disappointment with their therapists how to stay the course of therapeutic progress. Staff writer, Baruch Lytle, portrays the manner that one sober living center helps former addicts stay the course of recovery.
Given the diversity of our contributors’ perspectives, this issue also features articles about changing course. Simcha Feuerman illuminates an effective manner to break a repetitive cycle that plagues many marriages. In a similar vein, Alan Singer urges spouses who are engaged in one particularly toxic behavior to change their course.
I’d like to share a few thoughts about staying the course in a relationship that, unlike a marital relationship, cannot be terminated, but can still become sour and disillusioning.
Those of us who’ve brought a child into the world are likely possessed of hopes and longings. We hope for health and a full range of ability. We also hope that it is pleasurable for our child to be with us, and for us to be in their presence. We likely hope that our child will carry forward our ideals – the values we’ve come to cherish. For those of us who are religious, this includes an expectation that our children approach faith and observance similarly to how we do.
What happens, when a child does not have our range of physical, emotional or intellectual abilities? What happens when our hopes are not fulfilled, our expectations not met?
It’s easy to become sad, angry, or anxious. We might become overly controlling of the child; we might find ourselves becoming irritated with the child or others in our lives. We might simply disengage, from the child, our loved ones, and, in some cases, our community.
All the same, many of us bear a sense that we’re ultimately meant to raise not simply the child of our dreams, but rather the child we’ve been given.
Meaningfully raising our children – some would label this Chinuch – starts with a realistic assessment of the strengths and challenges of our children, their preferences, and that which repels them. An accurate assessment helps us recognize what to expect of our children, alongside of what their actual needs are, whether from us or the world at large.
Meaningfully raising our children – even those who’ve veered off course – continues with the following five parenting principles:
- Be grounded in who you are and what you stand for – not just the example you are setting for others. You may not witness your children emulating your ideals; you still need to know what matters most to you, even when you are living entirely on your own.
- Be prepared to make educational and other choices that are focused on the needs of your child, as opposed to the expectations of your community
- Be present for your child, in the manner he lets you in, in the way, shape, or form that he needs you. If your child will not come with you to Shul, where does he wish to accompany you? Is there a venue in which he excels that he wishes to invite you?
- A corollary of the above is to locate the joy, if possible, in finding a form of connection, any human connection with your child.
- In the event that you need to set boundaries – i.e., when physical harm is imminent or predatory behavior is present – do so with both firmness and compassion.
I’d like to add a personal note. The ideas I had for “staying the course” have been rolling around in my head for several months. It was only more recently that I received an extra dose of inspiration.
A little over a month ago, one of the past presidents of Nefesh, Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Glick, returned his soul to its Maker. (Full disclosure: Over the past 10 years, we’ve been related through marriage.)
Rabbi Dr. Glick is someone who taught and, more importantly, modeled what it means to stay the course. Together with his beloved wife, Nina, he raised a lovely family. He and Nina seem to have known exactly how to meet the needs of everyone who came within their orbit. They’ve exhibited presence and joy with an incredibly wide range of individuals. The boundaries Mordechai and Nina did set, were done so with gentleness and love.
May Rabbi Dr. Glick’s memory be a blessing; may Nina and their children be comforted; may his inspiration guide us all, in staying the course.
Rabbi Yehuda Krohn, Psy.D., a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, works with individuals, families and couples in his Lincolnwood private practice. He writes and presents on Torah, psychology and the intersection of the two. Rabbi Dr. Krohn is an executive board member of Nefesh International. He can be reached at email@example.com
Photo by Steven Van Loy on Unsplash