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Achieving Escape Velocity

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We’re Ready to Kill our Son

Years ago, when I used to do family therapy, I remember a couple coming to me complaining bitterly about their 18 year old son who wasn’t filling any of their expectations during the summer of his senior year. “He told us he was going to find work this summer but never applied for a job.  Instead, he stays out until 4 AM partying  every night with his friends, sleeps until 2 PM and then lays on the couch watching MTV until it’s time to go out again with his friends.  He never eats with us anymore. He’s supposed to start college in 3 weeks but we aren’t sure we can last that long without killing him!”  His father bemoaned, “He was such a good kid and all we ever do now is fight.  It’s horrible.  We were hoping for one last good summer with our son and now, when he finally leaves I’m afraid I’m going to shout, “And stay out!”

As a therapist, it was my job to enroll them in a different perspective, one that would take these same circumstances and, by seeing them differently, have them evoke a completely different emotional and behavioral response. I asked, “Did you say that this is all going on in the summer before he leaves for college?”  They both nodded.  “Oh good.  I’m so glad this is happening.  This is really great!”

“Great?”  “Did you say ‘great’?” they cried. “This isn’t great.  It’s a disaster!”

I said, “This scenario is quite common and sometimes necessary for a good adjustment to college life.” They were bewildered. I further explained that this type of behavior and the antipathy between them would help him make a clean break from high school and not suffer any home sickness or separation anxiety when he left for college.  The fact that they couldn’t wait for him to leave was a good thing as well. It would make them less inclined to miss him and worry about him once he was gone. I said, “Suppose you and he had had a wonderful summer and a close relationship right up until the day he left. He’d probably miss you terribly and want to come home on the weekends rather than face the adjustments necessary for acclimating to college life e.g., roommates, hazing, making friends, managing his time, etc.  You see, Its really all for the best.”

They left my office slightly dazed by my point of view but later told me that after that session, they saw him differently and had more compassion for what he might be going through. They didn’t argue with him as much. He did fine his first semester and their relationship improved after he had been gone a short while.

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla (1856 -1943) is one of my heroes. He’s been called, the inventor of everything else.  While most people know of Thomas Edison’s many inventions, few remember that Tesla (once Edison’s employee) is now credited not only with the invention of alternating current but also the radio (years before Marconi), x-rays (before Roentgen), fluorescent bulbs, remote control, wireless communication, robotics and a host of others.

I heard that before he died, he expressed regret that he had introduced alternating current to the world because of the limiting paradigm it created about energy. The use of AC current power plants left people with the impression that energy had to be produced in one place and then distributed from that source to outlying areas. Tesla believed and demonstrated that this wasn’t true.  Electrical energy, which he called Radiant Energy, was universally present and free and with the right tools could be tapped into and utilized by all.

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