Archive for May, 2016

“When we carry around the toxic load of unfinished business from the past, we pollute the present and poison the future.”

Unfinished business WoW

Unfinished Business

By Linda and Charlie Bloom

“Unfinished business, unresolved issues, emotional baggage, irreconcilable differences, misunderstandings”, call it what you will, but whatever you call it, it ain’t good for relationships.

We usually refer to unfinished business as “incompletions” since they leave us feeling like there’s something missing, something unfinished or incomplete in our relationship. What is missing is the feeling that things are okay between us and our connection is complete as is and nothing needs to be done or said in order for each of us to feel secure and at peace in our relationship at this time.

Incompletions leave us with a gnawing sense something is not okay and consequently, we don’t experience a solid connection with each other. Some couples experience this pervasively in their relationship because they have failed to adequately address and come to terms with the broken places that exist between them.

They may even believe this feeling has become the norm and have become resigned to it being a permanent condition of their relationship. This perception is not only unfortunate and painful, but it is dangerous, since it can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy that may solidify that belief into a reality.

Incompletions occur whenever an issue isn’t adequately addressed in a way that leaves both partners feeling that it is, at least for the time being, settled.

This doesn’t necessarily mean it is resolved and reconciled once and for all, but rather there is a sense of acceptance of things as they are and for now, there are no unspoken feelings such as resentment or disappointment being withheld. If there is a perceived need on the part of one or both partners to revisit the issue and continue to pursue the dialogue, they may want to create an agreement to discuss things further at another time.

When an incompletion doesn’t get addressed in an open and timely way, it becomes like a magnet, attracting feelings of resentment, negative judgments, and critical assessments which, if not dealt with openly, get pulled underground adding to the accumulation of unfinished business and further impairing our ability to experience a deep, trusting connection with each other. Many of us, in our efforts to avoid the risk of opening up a potential can of worms choose instead to build up a tolerance to the scent of unresolved concerns and push things further into the denial zone. Such a tolerance has the effect of diminishing the motivation to clean things up and the vicious circle remains unbroken.

Getting complete requires the willingness to risk upsetting the apple cart, something we are more inclined to risk if we trust we can repair any upsets that may have been caused or exposed in the process. If we are inexperienced in the skillful management of differences, we’re not likely to have much confidence in our mutual abilities to create a successful outcome. All the more reason to learn more about handling incompletions.

Although there may be some uncomfortable moments in the process of acknowledging that which is unfinished, we are much more likely to become more skilled in this work by addressing issues directly when they arise, than by avoidance. It’s all about on-the-job-training.

Here are some guidelines for addressing incompletions that you may find useful. (Please note: our use of the pronoun “he” is in no way meant to suggest that “she” should be the one who has the responsibility for initiating this process or that “she” is always the one who is aware of the concern. It is done for the sake of simplicity.)

  1. Acknowledge to your partner that you have an incompletion. This can take the form of a simple statement such as: “There’s something that I feel unfinished about and I’d like to speak with you about it. Is this a good time?”


  1. If he says ‘no’, seek to create agreement to find a time that will be convenient for both of you. (note: be specific and make sure you both have an adequate amount of time available to do the matter justice. Assume the conversation will take longer than you think it should.)

If your partner says ‘yes’, go to step 3.

  1. State your intention in having the conversation. It should be something that will ultimately benefit you both, such as: “My hope in having us both address my concern is that I can feel more complete and we can both experience greater trust and understanding with each other.”
  2. Provide your partner some guidance that will help him to know how he can best support you in this process, such as: “It would be helpful to me if you can just let me explain to you what I’m feeling and needing without interrupting me. I don’t feel that I’ve been successful at making my feelings and concerns clear and I’d like to try again. When I’m done, I’d like to hear your response and I’ll do my best to understand your take on things. I really appreciate your willingness to have this conversation with me.”
  3. Express your feelings, needs, and concerns and make any requests that you would like your partner to respond to. Try to speak in terms of your experience, as this will diminish the likelihood your partner will feel blamed or judged and will be less likely to become defensive. If he does become defensive or interrupts you, ask him if he can let you finish and you’ll be able to be much more open to what he is saying after you feel he’s heard you.
  4. When he responds, show him the same respect you’ve asked him to give you by listening attentively, not just to his words, but also the feelings that underlie them as well, and try to resist the temptation to “correct” him if he says anything you disagree with or see differently. Keep in mind that not disagreeing with someone does not necessarily mean you agree with him. Also, remember you will have an opportunity in your response to share your perception of how things look to you and what your experience is.


  1. Go back and forth until you reach a point at which it feels that the energy between the two of you has lightened up and you both feel more relaxed, understood, and hopeful. An incompletion doesn’t have to be absolutely resolved in order to create a positive outcome. Some incompletions require many conversations before they become fully reconciled to the full satisfaction of both partners.

If you hit an impasse that despite your best efforts becomes intractable, rather than trying to push through it, take a break in the conversation or agree to resume the dialogue at another time, after you both have reaffirmed your intentions.

  1. Regardless of the outcome, thank your partner for joining you in your commitment to deepen the quality of trust and understanding in the relationship.

This is admittedly an abbreviated version of the process of getting complete. You’ll learn a lot more by noticing the consequences of your interactive patterns as you engage in your dialogues. To the best of your ability, try to be respectful, non-judgmental, non-blaming, and responsible in your words. Most of us are much more sensitive to blame, judgment and criticism than we and others realize.

The less reactive you are, the more open your partner is likely to be and the better able he will be to listen and respond non-defensively.

Becoming more skilled in the process of getting complete is a great way to break the habit of avoidance and one of the best things you can do to promote good will in your relationships. There is a learning curve to the process, but it doesn’t take a genius to master it, just an intention. It’s about practicing, and you’ll probably have lots of opportunities for that. So you might as well go for it. You’ve got nothing to lose but your incompletions!

Linda and Charlie Bloom are good friends of mine and I highly recommend their work!

Linda Bloom, LCSW and Charlie Bloom, MSW have been married since 1972. Trained as psychotherapists and relationship counselors, they have worked with individuals, couples, groups, and organizations since 1975.

They have lectured and taught at learning institutes throughout the USA, including the Esalen Institute, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the California Institute for Integral Studies, the Meridian University, John F. Kennedy University, the Crossings, Omega institute, the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology, University of California at Berkeley Extension Program, the Hoffman Institute, and the World Health Organization.

They have offered seminars throughout the world, including China, Japan, Indonesia, Denmark, Sweden, India, Brazil, and many other locations.

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“I like you just the way you are.”

Mr. Rogers

I Like You WoW

Unconditional love. Isn’t that what all of us really want – to be accepted and loved just the way we are. . . without judgment or criticism . . . without prejudice or ridicule . . . without rejection or hostility . . . without having to feel like I have to change who I am or how I act in order for others to like me? Don’t we all long to feel the warm, safe embrace of someone else’s unhesitating, unquestioning, wholehearted acceptance?

Rare is the kind and gentle soul who is so evolved to consistently be this way with others, but if that’s what we so deeply want for ourselves, wouldn’t it be a good idea to practice it more often with everyone else, our friends, family members and most especially with others who are completely “different” from us? Aren’t we all really the same?

Walking the Beat In Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Where a New Day Began Together

His is not just a gentle voice; for many people, it’s a very familiar one, too. For 25 years, Francois Clemmons played a role on the beloved children’s program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Clemmons joined the cast of the show in 1968, becoming the first African-American to have a recurring role on a kids TV series.

And, as it happens, it was Clemmons’ voice that Fred Rogers noticed, too, when he heard Clemmons singing in church.

“Fred came to me and said, ‘I have this idea: You could be a police officer,’ ” recalls Clemmons, speaking with his friend Karl Lindholm during a visit with StoryCorps.

Clemmons says he didn’t like the idea much at first.

“I grew up in the ghetto. I did not have a positive opinion of police officers. Policemen were siccing police dogs and water hoses on people,” he says. “And I really had a hard time putting myself in that role. So I was not excited about being Officer Clemmons at all.”

Still, Clemmons came around to it eventually and agreed to take on the role.

And, in the decades he spent as part of the show, there’s one scene in particular that Clemmons remembers with great emotion. It was from an episode that aired in 1969, in which Rogers had been resting his feet in a plastic pool on a hot day.

“He invited me to come over and to rest my feet in the water with him,” Clemmons recalls. “The icon Fred Rogers not only was showing my brown skin in the tub with his white skin as two friends, but as I was getting out of that tub, he was helping me dry my feet.”

Clemmons says the scene — which the two also revisited in their last episode together, in 1993 — touched him in a way he hadn’t expected.

“I think he was making a very strong statement. That was his way. I still was not convinced that Officer Clemmons could have a positive influence in the neighborhood and in the real-world neighborhood, but I think I was proven wrong,” he says.

During Clemmons’ time on the show, he wasn’t simply the friendly neighborhood police officer. Off the set, he was also a Grammy-winning singer, who performed in over 70 musical and opera roles and founded the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble.

Rogers, for his part, wasn’t simply Clemmons’ iconic co-star. He was also Clemmons’ “friend for life.”

He says he’ll never forget the day Rogers wrapped up the program, as he always did, by hanging up his sweater and saying, “You make every day a special day just by being you, and I like you just the way you are.” This time in particular, Rogers had been looking right at Clemmons, and after they wrapped, he walked over.

Clemmons asked him, “Fred, were you talking to me?”

“Yes, I have been talking to you for years,” Rogers said, as Clemmons recalls. “But you heard me today.”

“It was like telling me I’m OK as a human being,” Clemmons says. “That was one of the most meaningful experiences I’d ever had.”

Produced for Morning Edition by Jasmyn Belcher Morris.

 Thank you to my good friend Tom Bailey 
for sharing this story on his Facebook.

P.S. Keep in mind, that at this time, many city swimming pools were open to the general public, that is, if you were white. People of color were not allowed.

After a great deal of protest, they were finally permitted to swim on one day a week. However, the city drained the water at the end of the day so the white children wouldn’t have to swim in “dirty” water. This is a good example of “institutional racism” which, although improved over the years, continues today in many subtle and not so subtle ways. Children of color receive messages every day that tell them they are not “good enough”.

Mr. Rogers taught us all how to respond to prejudice and intolerance.  He simply ended every show, every day, with a kind and loving, “I like you just the way you are,” and then provided a good example.

Isn’t that what we all want to hear?

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“’Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, and understanding.”

Alice Walker
Old Eddie WoW
Old Eddie

“It happens every Friday evening, almost without fail, when the sun resembles a giant orange and is starting to dip into the blue ocean. Old Ed comes strolling along the beach to his favorite pier. Clutched in his bony hand is a bucket of shrimp.

Ed walks out to the end of the pier, where it seems he almost has the world to himself. The glow of the sun is a golden bronze now. Everybody’s gone, except for a few joggers on the beach. Standing out on the end of the pier, Ed is alone with his thoughts…and his bucket of shrimp.

Before long, however, he is no longer alone. Up in the sky, a thousand white dots come screeching and squawking, winging their way toward that lanky frame standing there on the end of the pier. Before long, dozens of seagulls have enveloped him, their wings fluttering and flapping wildly.

Ed stands there tossing shrimp to the hungry birds. As he does, if you listen closely, you can hear him say with a smile, ‘Thank you. Thank you.’

In a few short minutes the bucket is empty. But Ed doesn’t leave. He stands there lost in thought, as though transported to another time and place. Invariably, one of the gulls lands on his sea-bleached, weather-beaten hat – an old military hat he’s been wearing for years.

When he finally turns around and begins to walk back toward the beach, a few of the birds hop along the pier with him until he gets to the stairs, and then they, too, fly away. And old Ed quietly makes his way down to the end of the beach and on home.

If you were sitting there on the pier with your fishing line in the water, Ed might seem like ‘a funny old duck,’ as my dad used to say. Or, ‘a guy that’s a sandwich shy of a picnic,’ as my kids might say. To onlookers, he’s just another old codger, lost in his own weird world, feeding the seagulls with a bucket full of shrimp.

To the onlooker, rituals can look either very strange or very empty. They can seem altogether unimportant…maybe even a lot of nonsense. Old folks often do strange things, at least in the eyes of Boomers and Busters. Most of them would probably write Old Ed off, down there in Florida.

That’s too bad. They’d do well to know him better. His full name: Eddie Rickenbacker. He was a famous hero back in World War I.

During WW II, he was sent on a special flying mission across the Pacific. He and his seven-member crew went down when they went off course in their B-17 bomber and ran out of gas. Miraculously, all of the men survived, crawled out of their plane, and climbed into a life raft.

Captain Rickenbacker and his crew floated for days on the rough waters of the Pacific. They fought the sun. They fought sharks. Most of all, they fought hunger.

By the eighth day, their rations ran out. No food. No water. They were hundreds of miles from land and no one knew where they were. They needed a miracle.

That afternoon they had a simple devotional service and prayed for a miracle. They tried to nap. Eddie leaned back and pulled his military cap over his nose. Time dragged. All he could hear was the slap of the waves against the raft.

Suddenly, Eddie felt something land on the top of his cap. It was a seagull! Old Ed would later describe how he sat perfectly still, planning his next move. With a flash of his hand and a squawk from the gull, he managed to grab it and wring its neck. He tore the feathers off, and he and his starving crew made a meal – a very slight meal for eight men – of it. Then they used the intestines for bait. With it, they caught fish, which gave them food and more bait…and the cycle continued.

With that simple survival technique, they were able to endure the rigors of the sea until they were found and rescued (after 24 days at sea.)

Eddie Rickenbacker lived many years beyond that ordeal, but he never forgot the sacrifice of that first lifesaving seagull. And he never stopped saying, ‘Thank you.’

That’s why almost every Friday night he would walk to the end of the pier with a bucket full of shrimp and a heart full of gratitude.”

Max Lucado, In The Eye of the Storm, pp.221, 225-226

“You have been given a gift of 86,400 seconds today.

Have you used one to say ‘thank you?’”

William Arthur Ward

PS: Rickenbacker was a pilot and a hero during WW I who became an ace and was presented with The Medal of Honor. He went on to be a race car driver, an aviation consultant, started Eastern Airlines and later became their President. The story above happened during WW II.

(This story is true although some of the fine details are not direct quotes from Lucado’s book)

Thank you to my dear friend Heidi Bailey for sharing this with us.

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