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Rabbi Shmuel Gluck - Areivim - Subtle Weaknesses - Part 2
by Rabbi Shmuel Gluck

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Subtle Weaknesses - Part 2

3) Showing disappointment in others creates a negative ripple effect and will alienate one from another. Initially the disappointment may not be strong enough to hurt the relationship and those in the relationship will still treat each other in the same loving manner as before, with the exception of the area of disappointment. However, if the disappointment is not dealt with it'll take on a life of its own. If the spouse/parents would realize that their disappointment in the other spouse or children will eventually ruin their family's life, they would more readily forgive the disappointment. The problem is that the long term effect is not seen until it's too late.

4) People are disappointed when those they care about fail in areas in which others succeed. There are usually two reasons for these failures and both are very important to consider:

a. Many people have inherent weaknesses that go undiagnosed for years. Although the weaknesses may be manageable, they're often allowed to do more damage than necessary. In many cases these inherent weaknesses cause more frustration (e.g. social issues), than actual damage (e.g. serious mental health issues).

If a family member is burdened by an undiagnosed inherent weakness, the family's response must be directly related to the weakness. If this does not happen, the parent or spouse may contribute to make the weakness worse. There are a wide range of issues that fall into this category. In the educational area, there are children who have reading "issues" that may go undetected for years. These children may be punished for poor reading, and this causes them to become behavioral problems. When they get older, they'd like an acknowledgment that their situation was mishandled. In many cases, they don't want to blame anyone, they just want an acknowledgment, something that many parents, or older siblings, won't provide.

Sometimes these issues are subtle and the family member is only minimally affected by the illness. Whether it's ADD, social issues, Aspergers or anything else, they're affected so slightly that it becomes hard to believe that they're anything besides being "difficult". In reality, they have a diagnosis that can be treated.

In the behavioral area, there are many people who have sensory, cognitive, or other weaknesses, which interfere with their ability to socialize as well as do others. What they need is a diagnosis, therapy, and patience on the part of those that are supposed to unconditionally love them. They should be judged as individuals and not be compared to others.

The need to appreciate that people may have something wrong with them (instead of just being difficult), should make the family members realize that when they complain about the behaviors, "it" may be the only behavior that they know. There's no difference between complaining about why one can't stay up for 48 hours and finish a project (something few, if any, can do), and between expecting one to focus for an hour (something most people can do) but is beyond this person's ability.

I sometimes find myself grappling with some of the medical labels given to problem children. Bi-polar, for instance, is something that is deeply rooted in a person's being. Mentoring or loving such family members may make the family's life easier, but it won't cure them or help them live successful lives.

However, an inability to focus is less clearly defined, both in its diagnosis and treatment. Should unfocused children be approached from a chemical and/or behavioral manner? Should parents let their children's inability to focus take its course, but position them so that their inability to focus is less relevant?

These situations usually have no clear answers and I advise parents to trust the professionals, despite the fact that the diagnosis may be very difficult for the parents to accept, and the instructions may be difficult to follow. They should be careful to choose professionals who've been very successful in the field. Having a diploma, and/or being covered by insurance, should not be the basis for choosing someone to lead your mental health team. Parents should also be aware that, in many cases, the professionals may also be guessing, although their guesses are based on more experience, and on which parents should rely.

When children have legitimate reasons for their lack of success, the parents' disappointments are not justified. Being disappointed, and embarrassed, by what others may be thinking, is disloyal to children. The correct response is to support and love them. Any disappointments that parents may "naturally" feel, should not be dealt with by expecting the children to change their behaviors. These should be dealt with by having the parents come to terms with the children's illness and changing the family's realities.

b. There's a clinical phrase referred to as shadow sicknesses. These are symptoms of a host of commonly known issues that affect people, but they manifest themselves so subtly that they show only a "shadow" of the usual signs and symptoms of the sicknesses. They include, among others: Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Aspergers, bi-polar and depression.

Many parents can't understand why their children fail. A neighbor may tell them that the children may have ADD, and they promptly take their children to a therapist. Tests show they do not have ADD. The parents become frustrated and conclude, once again, that it's their children's attitude, something that the parents must correct and, therefore, they again place pressure on their children. This only succeeds in making them more difficult to handle, and unhappier, than before.

The fact is that the children may indeed have ADD, but at such a minimal level, that it was not seen during the testing. The same is true for the other issues mentioned before, and for many other social dysfunctions. \


The reader may become frustrated at what I've written, since I've concluded that they may not have enough information to properly help their children and, therefore, can't solve the issues that confront them. However, the message of this article is not to advise parents to give up. The message is fourfold:

1) Don't be too quick to judge, incriminate and become disappointed in those that you love;

2) Accept that some people that you love may simply be unable to do what you want them to;

3) See the other person as a victim and not as someone bad;

4) Think of others before yourselves.

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