Tuesday, November 27, 2018

What is Ed's Problem

What is Ed's Problem

When I was a therapist I met a man named Ed. Ed was not all that all different from me, but he expressed himself differently. Ed used to abuse his wife emotionally; he was intimidating, and threatening toward her. Ed was not all bad, he did come to see me to try and better himself and his relationship. I am no longer a therapist but when I look back on the years when I was, Ed was one of my favorite clients.

Despite my discomfort with the abusive ways that Ed was expressing his anger, I liked meeting with him. Ed was a doer, he could not sit still very much. He was always anxious to try things in his life, things that we would discuss in session. After the session he would implement some of the things we discussed then he report back the effects. It was a little like having a second life that I could experiment with. I met Ed very early on in my practice and it was a good experience for me and I hope for him as well.

Ed did not have lofty goals for his life he was average working class person. If I could attach a few labels to him they would have been, blue collar and redneck. And Ed loved his family and that was what brought him to me. His problem was pretty simple like he himself was; Ed had no responsibilities in his life and this made him feel lost, hopeless, and vulnerable. So when these feelings overwhelmed him he made vain attempts to find control through abusive actions. So the abuse is a manifestation of his problem.

His problem is his inability or unwillingness to embody the gospel of Christ. Now that is also the biggest problem for everyone in the world, whether you are a Christ follower or not. But in Ed's case, there are a few specific gospel points that I believe are key for Ed's life and may serve as a lesson to others who read this..

First, is his responsibility he has none. He has no yoke, he has no burden. Remember that Jesus said that my yoke is easy my burden is light. Jesus did not say you will have no burden or no yoke; you still need to be responsible and active. It is likely, though he never told me, that Ed made a deal with himself somewhere in his life that he was going to take things easier and have fun. I've made similar deals with myself. If that is a main goal of our lives then we should expect nothing else of lives other than them being easy.

I do not believe that Ed, if he only applied himself, was going to solve world hunger, but he had the potential to be a great Dad, a great husband, and a great friend. These should have been his goals. More fundamental, his goal should have been "love thy neighbour" and all the implications of that. These implications would include not going out on Friday night when your child is sick, swallowing your pride when your wife makes a backhanded comment about carpentry skills. These implications are not always easy or what you want but they are best suited to achieving the goal"love thy neighbor." These goals could have allowed him to have a significant positive impact in this world.

In pursuit of this goal Ed needed to assume responsibility of his home in a real way. Not in a display of physical strength or aggression. Not in a way that flexed power and control. He needed to show humility, respect, and an honest pursuit of the correct path for himself and his family. Ed needed to realize that while ultimate power at home was not his, ultimate responsibility was. Ed needed to lead his family by serving it.

Ed was not the leader in his home. This is likely a situation that arose over time. In order to keep the peace as much as possible he allowed his wife more and more control in the home, as control was what she sought. He kept backing up until he had no credibility at home at all. Ed used to tell me every week that he did not like things at home. What he did not say, but what I believed to be true was that his vision for his home was a loving one, but without a voice or vision at home, he could not realize it. He probably had a vision of himself watching hockey and drinking beer as well. This is part of the issue however where Ed needed to learn to compromise without backing out and he did not have that skill. That caused frustration which Ed allowed to push him to make the wrong decision and become abusive to his wife.

It sounded as if his wife ridiculed his decisions in their relationship likely not in a deliberately malicious way but just in a way that caused him to question himself. Perhaps she did this because she had a domineering father who ignored his own faults. Ed's partner may have placed that on Ed now that they were partnered and knocking him down a peg let her feel like she was knocking her father down a peg and boosting herself up, just a guess. The result was that Ed was insecure and felt incapable, probably not the intended result on Ed's partner's part. To keep the peace and save face he kept backing away more and more until there was little input from Ed in the reality of his home. 

But things at home go on without his leadership, and without Ed's leadership his partner is looking for ways to boost her self-esteem without so readily being able to knock Ed down a peg. So she gambles and she shops and she spends money they do not have and Ed gets frustrated. He tries to be self righteous and show his partner that he can hold onto money and can live his life more casually. She can only scoff at his self righteousness because she rarely gets a chance to knock him down a peg anymore; she needs to grab every opportunity. The result is conflict and frustration and Ed makes potentially dangerous decisions that harm his wife. 

I only met Ed a brief number of times but was very fortunate that he was a doer and thus he did make progress. What I encouraged him to do was to make efforts in leading his family, I tried to help him anticipate problems that conflict with that process, but also tried to strengthen his resolve to create the home that he believed was best for his family.

Ed began to make changes like budgeting, cleaning the house. These changes led to changes from his wife and changes in their relationship. Fortunately for Ed the changes from all perspectives were largely positive, and his relationship and his family had a chance. His partner responded well and his relationship got better. Ed began see possibilities.

I am realist however, I realize that in all likelihood Ed and his partner are separated currently and Ed sees his children every second weekend. The main reason I think that is my own cynicism that leads me to believe that people do not change. God can change people, put you on the right path, and then you can choose everyday to walk that path, but if you do not rely on God to change you it will not happen.

To my own shame I steered clear of spiritual topics and certainly did not open any dialogue to the gospel. I hope that today I am better therapist and a sufficiently motivated Christ follower to do otherwise. I think today I would have tried more specifically to show Ed that contentedness is a gospel message I believe, but that idea of being content does not preclude us from setting lofty goals. I believe Jesus told us to be satisfied with our lot whatever that may be, but Jesus also told us that we should expect to move mountains. When we focus on our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters, our wives and partners we can start to see how that may be possible. When we then focus on God's purposes including peace and hope for everyone, we can see it happen.

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