Ari Sytner

Do Your Kids Push You to the Limit? You’re Not Alone!

Posted by in Parenting, Relationships & Marriage

Have you ever heard a parent say that they just want to throw their kid? Perhaps it was across the room, or out the window, or from a moving car. While it is a highly inappropriate thing to think, even worse to say – of course, it is something which must never be done!

Though I hear my clients occasionally use these terms to describe their frustrations at home, any sensible parent would deny ever making such remarks. Truth be told, however, we all know that, at some point or another, we’ve said it, or at least thought it. Does a statement like that reflect a deficiency in a parents love for their child? Of course not; we’re just human. Every parent has a threshold of what they could reasonably handle before they get pushed to the limit and some days we just get pushed to hard. Arguably, many of the factors that may contribute to our short fuse are on us, not our children. If a child throws a tantrum just as we are about to beat the next level of Candy Crush, or during the last two minutes of an episode of House of Cards, it is the parent’s responsibility to be the adult, lovingly stop what they are doing, and make the child feel like a priority, rather than a nuisance.

Earlier this year, my wife and I had the pleasure of taking our four children to Universal Studios. Uplifted and pooped after a long day of lines and rides, we approached the taxi stand to return to our hotel. The next van in line pulled up and the driver stepped out to greet us. He turned to me and in front of my children said,

“Oh man, are these all your kids? I feel bad for you. They must make you nuts”.

Before responding, I glanced down to see the looks on the faces of my children. One was more crestfallen then the next. Yet, with a huge smile I replied to the driver and said,

“Yes, they are all my kids, and yes, sometimes they make me nuts, but please, don’t feel bad for me, because they are absolutely the most amazing part of my entire life and I love them more than anything in the world”!

After we were dropped off at the hotel, I debriefed with my children and I nervously asked what they thought of the driver’s comments. I was so proud when one of my children spoke up and said, “I just feel really bad for him, because he must not know what's it like to have a great family”.

Although it can be a huge challenge, as parents, we should differentiate between those times our children are acting out and when they are acting like, well, children. Yes, we sometimes may feel so frustrated by their behavior, but remember, it is their job to be kids and they only get one shot at doing it. As parents, it is on us to remove the peripheral distractions from our radar whenever the children are around. For our attention and patience is already spread thin, and the last thing we want to do, is make our children to feel like a burden, when in fact, they are the single most important and beloved thing in our entire lives.

Let’s just make sure that they know it, too.

To contact Ari Sytner for counseling, interventions or feedback, please click here.


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When Does an Addict Seek Treatment?

Posted by in Addiction

There tends to be a significant barrier to therapy for many addicts. Consider the road that the addict travels. They manage their secret as long as possible, slowly sinking deeper and deeper until one of two things happen. Either they are discovered and face the shame that comes with it – forcing them to seek treatment and rebuild their lives.

Alternatively, they reach a point where their secret is too much for them to handle and the addiction has taken over their life to the extent where they simply can no longer function. In this case, the addict is in the pre-contemplation stage. This is where they he or she knows that an intervention is needed and something has to change. They feel ready to make a change, however, they still need to cross the giant chasm that is moving from thoughts of recovery toward action.

There are a number of avenues for recovery including the renowned 12-Step programs, which can be invaluable to support the addict and their family. The primary barrier for many people this case, however, is being “found out”. To walk into an open meeting, one faces the fear of bumping into their neighbor, pastor pharmacist or child’s teacher.

“How can I seek treatment if it means that word is going to get out?

This might cost me my marriage, job or standing in the community?!”

The important thing to realize in these settings is that it is a safe and confidential environment. The meetings are built upon a fellowship which is aimed at embracing and supporting each other, as everyone else at the meeting has the same secret and is equally trusting you with it. Many have reported that by sharing their addiction with others, it has been liberating, as if a weight has been lifted from them. This is particularly true, in an environment where they feel that others understand them, and without judgment, support them.

Furthermore, in today’s tech environment, those with busy schedules who may otherwise not be able to attend daily meetings can participate in online and phone meetings throughout the day. Though they are absolutely helpful and effective, they still do have the same impact as face-to-face meetings.

Finally, having a properly trained therapist can make all the difference, whether in addition to, or in place of 12-Step meetings. It should be someone you feel comfortable with and are willing to open up to honestly. The types of modalities which have been proven to be particularly effective includes a combination of Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and psychotherapy. The support that the addict receives will be most effective, when in conjunction with therapy or support for one’s family members. Since the recovery process can be a long road which impacts the entire household, thinking about the bigger picture will produce stronger results.

To contact Ari Sytner for counseling, interventions or feedback, please click here.

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Dealing with Difficult People & Egos

Posted by in Blog, Organizations & Leadership

One of the biggest faux pas I have seen in efforts toward organizational development is when the burden of improvement is placed solely upon the organization itself. While spreadsheets and charts are the output of the agency, at the end of the day, their success has little to do with the company, customers or trends and everything to do with the very people at the organization’s core.

Much of my approach to organizational development is taken from my experience in marriage counseling. For instance, every husband knows that he can inflate his ego, stand on ceremony and try to be right. Or, he can be happy! While being confident is a wonderful quality, having an overinflated ego only stands to hurt people. The same marriage principle holds true for organizations.

When ego gets in the way of a healthy work dynamic, nobody wins. It breeds a culture of mistrust and fear, which ultimately deteriorates morale and productivity. Nevertheless, for a number of reasons, there are some people who expect credit, respect and deference. They cannot be removed from the equation, nor will their nature quickly change.

How, then, can the organization be improved under these circumstances?

The way I strive to navigate this terrain is to facilitate progress on two fronts. Firstly, it is working directly with the egoist. In a therapeutic fashion, I explore the personal (not professional) goals of this individual. By helping to present them with a key focus on who they are and what fulfills them, it becomes a new lens with which they operate. Thus, without noticing it, it diffuses much of their tension, ego or insecurity which previously drove them. With a new focus, they are able to work on their own personal development and find fulfillment in their natural work environment and see others, not as a threat, but as part of a support-network. I have found that as a result of this one change, others around them are less likely to be the targets of their barbs and the culture becomes one of greater respect, focus and productivity.

The second approach is to facilitate a series of group conversations, where I am able to create a safe environment for people to exchange ideas and share how they feel. Ultimately, since I am not an employee of theirs and have nothing to lose, I can say the very things that they are afraid to. I am in a position to hold up a mirror to them and help them see how their previous dynamic could be harmful. Through this process, instead of people hiding behind niceties and preventing progress, an honest and mature conversation can be had. Just like in my work with couples, this dynamic helps to promote a sense of vulnerability. At first it feels raw and uncomfortable and makes people defensive. However, as people open up and start to communicate in a more “real” way with one another, the tensions dissipate, and humility and respect become the foundation for the relationships. It is specifically in a culture of mutual-respect and humility that any relationship – personal, professional or marital can thrive. In this case, while colleagues will now enjoy a more peaceful environment, the primary beneficiary of this change will be the organization as a whole.

To contact Ari Sytner for counseling, interventions or feedback, please click here.

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Nagging. Henpecking. Badgering.

Posted by in Relationships & Marriage

In working with my clients, it is fairly common to observe many marital stereotypes. This includes the wife as an overbearing figure in a relationship and one who can never be pleased. The imagery evokes sympathy for the poor guy who just can’t win. No matter how hard he tries – working long hours, helping with the children and household, this guy is just in a bear-trap of a marriage which will never loosen its grip. Yet, there is much more to this picture that requires analysis.

The husband can often recall the early days of his relationship when things were enjoyable, calm and far more mutual. Now, after years of taking his beatings he is left with two obvious choices. Option A: continue to be beaten into submission and keep his mouth shut. Through embracing his daily routine and hobbies for comfort, he will ultimately sail through the years, while his lonely and burdensome marriage continues to wear him down or eventually push him over the edge.

Option B: He can fight back and stand up for himself. After all, he’s a man! Why shouldn’t he defend himself? Who says that his wife always has to be right? Is there anything wrong with wanting to just relax after a long day of work? I mean, come on – he is killing himself from morning till night to earn the income needed to support his family and just at that moment when he crashes on the couch, his wife asks him to switch the clothing from the washer into the dryer! He wonders to himself, “why doesn’t she get me? Can’t she tell I’m exhausted? Would it kill her to do it herself?”

The problem with choosing either of these options – is that no good will ultimately come from them. To stick with Option A is to die a slow and painful death. To choose Option B is to run the risk of fueling confrontation and accelerating the decline of the relationship and the disillusion of the marriage. (Of course, with a competent therapist, this option can be more safely navigated).

Yet, let’s not forget secret Option C. In this scenario, the husband can fondly recall the good ol’ days when life was pleasurable and the relationship was fun and exciting. He remembers the romance, the flirtatious looks and the intimacy that they once shared. Where has it gone and how can he get it back?

I once saw a bumper sticker which read, “ If God seems to be far from you – ask yourself, “who drifted away first”? Similarly in relationships, while the husband may feel justified in feeling frustration and resentment towards his wife – he must look in the mirror and ask whether she is responsible for drifting away, or perhaps, could he be a contributing part of the problem, too?

In most relationships, when things start – of course, there are fireworks. However, the trap that many couples fall into is that their relationship turns from loving to transactional. And why shouldn’t it? There are bills to be paid, carpools to arrange, and shopping to be done. Through a responsible division of labor, couples can reach a smooth level of functioning, wherein the home is a well-oiled machine and something to be proud of. However, as a result, the relationship itself becomes stale and the friendship, romance and intimacy that once fueled their bond tends to dissolve in the wake of this partnership.

Their challenge and primary goal for this couple is to learn how to bring the love back to the forefront – as it is the foundation to everything else in their world. In their hectic lives, when a couple slows down enough to take the time and give that sideways glance or smile, a touch on the hand, or thoughtful text during the day, it reminds them of their love and helps refocus them on who they are as a loving couple. Thus, when a husband hears his best friend asking for the laundry to be put into the dryer, it is no longer viewed as an attack or judgment against him, rather, it is an expression of intimacy. The request, which was once interpreted as burdensome, can now be viewed as a deep longing from the single person in life he values more than anyone else. Whereas it may be natural for a guy to take affront to such a request – as if she did not care about how hard he has been working, it behooves him to learn how to process her expressions and be responsive, not out of obligation, but out of love. By being thoughtful and considerate of the pressures that she might be under, he can genuinely care and serve his half of the partnership – not out of obligation, but out of love.

With the many couples I have counseled, I have found that a wife who sounds like a nag, might in fact, be a best friend who is in need. By learning to really listen and understand what your spouse is feeling and through investing in the friendship itself, the necessary daily transactions no longer become a chore. Instead, they are elevated to meaningful gestures of love which strengthens the love, friendship and marriage.

To contact Ari Sytner for counseling, interventions or feedback, please click here.

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