Mental Training by Rich VanHuizen

December 30, 2011

I am customizing my personal mental training program…
This is what I just wrote to start my rough copy:

20 minutes per day

Purpose:
To be fully prepared for the moment when it comes, so that when the moment comes, there is no reaction; there is only the natural response.
Mindful to always respond with awareness: to be fully in tune with the things around me.

Then I began to think of the moments that I’ve had with significant people in my life such as relationships, past and current teammates, and Brian O’Reilly.
Brian was my coach when I started to make a big transition in my life.  When I began to look at things through a different lens.
The rough copy of my mental training program above reflects this transition that began in 2004.

Brian and I have studied the brain and relationships, we’ve also done workshops and role-plays.  The most impactful thing that I’ve learned through all of our moments together is the value of being prepared.

When I am un-loving, I am not preparing.  If I am not constantly watching myself and my own behaviours (preparing), I will be mean to the people around me.  When I am mean to the people around me I am not realizing that my unpreparedness shows itself when the shit hits the fan.  When I am unloving (gossiping about, criticizing, judging) and that person calls me out on it, I look like a fool.  I look like a fool because the truth revealed itself and the truth is that the damage to the relationship is my doing.

When I live my life prepared, I am constantly watching myself.  I am constantly responding to situations.  For instance, if I see an injustice, I speak up and share my truth about it.  I am constantly doing this when I see the value of being prepared.  Then, when the shit hits the fan, the truth, once again, reveals itself.

This way of living is extremely rewarding.
I often fail to live this way because I think that living this way is draining.  To be prepared to address every drama and injustice in your life each and every moment seems like a heavy task.  It seems draining.  Yet, when you do it, when I do it, we notice how energizing it is.  How energizing and rewarding it is to constantly speak the truth!!  Yet I am lazy.  My preparedness falls away because I simply blame others for my unhappiness.
What does preparedness look like to me?  Committing each day to bring an expectation to speak the truth with love in every moment.

I’d like to share how this life training has impacted my daily life.
I am in teacher’s college.  In my Grade 6 practicum placement I decided to use the community circle as a teaching tool (a community circle is where you move the desks out of the way and make a circle with the students and my chair, I am just one of 28).  I use the circle most often when I sense that there is a shift in energy in the classroom and there is unhappiness in the group.  We get in the circle and we just talk.  I do my best to build an environment in which the kids feel safe to say whatever they want.  I do this with my demeanor and by being honest myself.  I talk about what I’ve noticed in the classroom (such as bullying), and then I share how I have been a bully to a particular person in the past week or that day and I share the story of what happened.  I share what I did wrong, why I did it, and how I wish I had handled it.  The presence of honesty is so natural and so relieving to the kids that it simply and naturally paves the way for incredibly honest conversations.  The kids open right up and share and share and share and it does incredible things to the level of trust in the classroom.

I couldn’t do this if I wasn’t prepared.  I couldn’t do this if, when students in my classroom are disruptive, I shut them down and used anger to deal with my ineffectiveness as a teacher (aren’t they being disruptive because the teacher is b-o-r-i-n-g?  When was the last time you sat through a conference or a workshop for your job that was boring and you chose to sit quietly and attentively?  We expect our kids to do that from 9:00 to 3:30 every day? I digress).  I couldn’t do this if I wasn’t aware and awake to the needs of all of my kids every day.  If I didn’t pay close attention to the mood of my students and the things they said to each other and the feelings of loneliness and pain that my students had.  I couldn’t do this if teaching was simply a means to tell the kids what they needed to hear to meet my curriculum expectations and get a paycheck.  Having these types of rewarding conversations with my students in the community circle began with having individual community circles with my students in the hallway, on the playground, while helping them with their work, while listening to why their homework isn’t done.  It began with being prepared – prepared every day to respond to situations and speak to injustices.

When I am effectively doing this what am I doing?  Choosing love over judgment in each moment.  This requires preparation.

Rich VanHuizen
Beach Volleyball
http://www.richvanhuizen.com


Let’s Get to It

December 16, 2010

Before we begin, someone told me that you saved their career. They were a principal of a large school and you helped them get through their depression. I work with this person at the same school and I really like him. He is a good principal and I know he had some of the same struggles that I do. I want to know why I have lost all my zest for life. The kids are becoming harder and more difficult to teach. I used to love my work but now I find I struggle to come in every day and can’t wait to leave. At the end of the day I just want to sit down, eat dinner, watch TV and go to bed but sometimes I even fall asleep on the
couch.

Do you have anything else in your life that is going well, that inspires you?

Inspired? Yeah right! I used to resent all those teachers who were dead from the waist down, could never do anything extra for the students, and now I’m becoming one of them.

So you’re becoming one of them but you’re not there yet?

Almost!

So what’s holding you back from being a deadhead?

I don’t know. I guess in the summer I ran into an old principal and he introduced me to someone in a way that I have never heard myself described and it shocked me.

Was it something nice? Or was it hurtful?

It was nice but so much more!

How much more?

He spoke of me in a way that showed me he completely understood what I was doing with my students. Even though he was taking flak for it! His friend knew me or the situations I have been in because the old principal said to him, “This is the teacher I told you about – she’s the one I wish we could clone – she’s a gem”.

Wow! Those are pretty of admiring words! How did you choose to feel about such a compliment?

I was shocked at first but then I realized it was true….then!

But it isn’t now? What’s changed?

I did, I think!

So why did you do that?

I’m just tired of fighting all the time to be understood!

Who are you fighting?

Myself I guess!

Are you fighting for yourself or are you fighting to be understood?

Well, to be understood mainly I think.

Who do you want to be understood by?

The new principal!

Okay, so what’s the problem there?

You think it’s me right! This principal is a control freak. She spends most of her time dealing with rules, routines, and codes of conduct. This one student I have wouldn’t take his hat off in class which is against school policy and I’m supposed to kick him out if he doesn’t. I don’t care if the kid wears a hat in school or not. With this kid he’d even
take a suspension just to defy the rule because he thinks it’s a dumb rule and I think the kid is right.

You sound like you know this kid well. How does he get along in your class?

He’s great now. I took the fight away and listened to him. He does good work,
often in the 80’s.

Wow! You are a good teacher! I work with some of these kids too and I agree with you –they are capable of succeeding if you give them the chance.

If I had my old principal this wouldn’t even be a problem.

But you don’t and it is a problem! So what have you been doing to fix it?

Fighting with the principal I guess. That’s all I seem to do is fight with her.

Okay and is this making things better?

No! If only I could change schools then it would be a lot better and I
would be a lot better.

Well yes, for you but how about all those students at the school who
need someone to fight for them? What would happen to them? What do you think would happen to him?

He’d drop out! He’s a fighter!!!

And so are you! But did you win this kid over by fighting with him. Or
getting him to understand you?

No I didn’t fight with him!

So how then?

Oh so I’m not practicing what I preach! Well I guess you’re right – I’m a fool!

So how did you get this kid to change his behavior then?

I feel so foolish!

We need the passion of fools – they inspire us! So how then?

I worked at understanding him better

Okay, how much were you willing to understand him better?

That means I have to do all the changing!

Well, who’s the one that’s so unhappy with their life?

Well I am! That hat student that was miserable and he didn’t have to change so there! So why do I have to?

Who was miserable in the classroom with this kid?

He was!

So you were happy with him not learning anything in your class?

No! I guess I wasn’t if I’m honest. Why do I feel like I’m being tricked here!

Does it have anything to do with fooling yourself?

Maybe. Why would I do that?

Well, isn’t the whole point of self deception to not realize you’re deceiving yourself?

I guess so. However, how again am I deceiving myself?

How long did you wait to try and get an understanding of this kid and his defiance and trying to understand him?

Not very long at all.

How quickly did it improve?

Right away!

How quick did your attitude change about this kid?

As I said, right away!

But what changed in you?

I guess how I thought about it and how I treated him.

So how long do you want to keep feeling miserable with your principal?

I don’t. It’s a colossal waste of energy.

How long do you want to keep trying to get your principal to understand you?

That’s a waste to energy and I don’t have it.

How long do you think it would take for you to listen to your principal and get a better relationship going with her?

Well I don’t even like her!!!

I know! Do good teachers teach for themselves only?

No!

So who would you be doing it for?

For the students.

What kind of teachers creates good environments in their classrooms?

Great teachers!

What kind of teachers creates great relationships with their principal so that they can satisfy the needs of their students?

Smart, great teachers!!

Well, now you have a choice, the teacher I see and your old principal
sees or the misery you are now choosing.

This has been helpful. Thank you.

Helpful and hard, you have a big task ahead and like those students, you have to win that principal over. If you did, how would your situation teaching be different?

Well I think I’d be happier because I would get more opportunities to deal with the troubled students in effective ways I would feel a lot better about my job. I know that

Yes and I think you forgot it. If it doesn’t work out you can come and be miserable here and I’ll take your money. You can’t blame and complain about all the things you hear like your students. I’ll get rich off you and I’m sure I can find some shrink to give you a label to fit your misery so you don’t have to change.

That is so sad but so true.

Thanks again. I think I can handle this now. I will be back.

Well, you know where to find me. Good….

Good luck

No, good skill.

This has been pretty weird but thanks I feel so much better.

Coach Bri


Students At Risk

October 7, 2008

I recently spent the three days at one of the local high schools in my county dealing with at-risk students. I am always amazed at how these students respond to straight up communication and no games. One of the elements of dealing with students at risk is that they have a great bullshit monitor. As soon as they hear it, they know it!

I am often asked by teachers, “What are some of the things that I can do to continue what you’re doing in my class?” This is a very difficult question to answer because they’re not me and I’m not them. But what each teacher has to do is to remove all coercion from the classroom. The emphasis of the teacher must be on building a comfortable environment and a healthy relationship with the students. At-risk students are at risk students because of unmet needs in their life. The unmet needs that they have experienced (which most are unaware of) flow out of the poor relationships in their lives with their parents and other adults. If you come from a family where mom and dad who didn’t have good parenting skills (for those lucky enough to have a mom and dad), then this sets the ground for trouble.

Many at-risk youth that I deal with are disconnected from the thoughts, feelings and behaviors in their relationships. Often the behaviors they use as a defense are the same ones practiced by their parents because of their ineffective relationships with their children. You often hear these students say that they are picked on; this sense of being picked on comes from a perception that the world is a hostile place. Because of this sense of hostility, they are just trying to survive and therefore are not really accountable for their behavior. The second defense used by kids is often blame. Blame is used so that a person doesn’t have to be responsible for their actions. Another popular defense mechanism for youth at-risk is criticism. Criticizing as a behavior gives the person using the behavior a chance to feel that they have some power in that situation. Therefore many at-risk students use criticism as a way of hurting others to protect themselves. Really it is the idea that “I will get you before you get me”. Another defense is the defense of the victim. Here the student uses what he does as a tool of revenge to justify his behavior. Keeping it as a justification prevents the person from self-evaluating their destructive behavior. Another defense these at risk students use is denial. This behavior is very difficult to deal with because it doesn’t allow the teacher to process with the student their involvement in the present situation. This prevents the setting of limits needed to keep everybody safe. Another tactic used by at risk youth is withdrawal. Here the person totally shuts down and tunes out and uses their tuning out to avoid the chance of looking at behavioral change or choices within a situation.

These disconnected students practice these external control behaviors and are masters at it. As a matter of fact, they’re so good at it it takes enormous strength and courage to deal with these behaviors in a group setting. All of these behaviors set up by at risk student to engage the teacher in a power struggle. If this is accomplished, conflict will be produced as well as the confirmation that all adults are useless. Teachers need to understand that these troubled students are experts at what they do. By perpetuating disconnected relationships, both the teacher and the student do not have to self-evaluate and look at the choices they are making in the relationship together to get along. What really is happening in the situation of conflict is people have moved away from behaviors that meet their needs. Conflict quickly comes to an end when one person gives up the fight and puts the relationship ahead of the conflict. To become emotional in a situation with a student renders the teacher helpless because they soon become part of the problem.

External control psychology practiced by students in a classroom has four basic premises. The first premise is reacting to information and convincing them that they have no choice. The second premise is when things go wrong, blame others for the miserable way they feel in the learning environment. The third is trying to change the learning environment so that success or ineffectiveness is not tied to the choices that the student is making but rather how the environment isn’t changing for the student. The fourth premise is worked out in the classroom when the teacher tries to use coercion, to tell the student that the teacher knows what’s best for them. The student practices back this fourth premise by trying to convince the teacher that what they’re teaching is useless to them and, more importantly, not worth knowing. When any of these four premises are practiced in the classroom (and I believe many times they are), the environment becomes a battleground. Teachers spend most of their time trying to put out fires in relationships and less time teaching.

What I was discussing was violence at school and we discussed the latest shooting in Finland, I asked the class how they felt about it. One young man replied he thought the whole thing was hysterical. He was quickly challenged by his peers and criticized heavily for saying what he said. This disconnected youth was a master at setting up conflicts within the classroom as a means to satisfy his need for power. Not taking the information personally, I asked this student to describe to me what was hysterical about the situation. As soon as he had the floor he used the behavior of withdrawing to set up the next power struggle. When the youth saw that I was interested in what he thought because he thought it and wasn’t interested in criticizing him for what he thought, he had a difficulty dealing with the information. He didn’t know where to go from there. In that situation I rescued the student by saying that in this classroom you can think what you want to think and say what you want to say. I also stated that I’m interested in how you think and also how you feel and whenever you want to share, please feel free to do so.

As I said earlier, these at-risk youth are way better at disconnecting then we are at connecting and that’s what the problem is. My advice to any teacher is to always ind new and better ways to connect with the student. Remove all external psychology from the classroom and create an atmosphere to satisfy the needs. And show kindness and compassion in the most difficult times. At the same time, let the student know what you stand for as a person and what you’re willing to live with, what you’re going to ask them to do and what you will not ask them to do. This is setting limits and boundaries for students. Structure allows the student to find themselves in the classroom, as long as the relationship comes first and the structure second.

Coach bri


Parenting Using Internal Psychology

October 3, 2007

Effective? Yes. Easy? No. BUT worth every grey hair

Raising children is not an exact science. It is a delicate dance between caregiver and child that sees a swaying and flexing on both sides to make the relationship work. From the very beginning we are communicating and teaching the skill of negotiating. If a baby’s needs are met, the baby will learn to trust. That sets the stage for healthy negotiating between caregiver and child.

Parenting does not have a strict set of rules that works for everyone. A parent has to be aware of their child’s individual needs and respond as supportively as possible to encourage healthy mental, emotional and physical health.

Each child comes with their own personality traits and may have different wants than another child. It is important to be in tune with what they want and attempt to satisfy these by meeting their needs.

Everyone has common needs for survival, love and belonging, fun, freedom, power but parents will discover that the degree to which you meet these will vary with each child depending on their expressed wants.

Since we, as parents have the first influence on our children, we do have a huge responsibility to set the tone for the development of healthy esteem.

Many of us have been raised with a psychology that says ‘father/mother knows best’ where the power balance is fully weighted on the parent’s side. Well internal psychology teaches us that individuals know what is best for them so we need to constantly inquire with our children to understand what they want.

To some degree we as parents do know what keeps a little one safe but you will be utterly amazed how quickly a young human being can make safe and appropriate decisions if you give them the information they need to do so.

If the caregiver can relinquish control and allow the child to have some power in decision making, this will increase the likelihood that the child will have success in achieving their own goals.

Children who are taught from a young age to make decisions and accept the consequences of their actions usually become teenagers who recognize the relationship between their behaviour and the resulting consequences.

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The Human Problem of Anxiety

January 30, 2007

If there is one problem that I deal with the most in my private counseling practice it is this problem of human anxiety.

Many times a client comes to see me and talks about having anxiety attacks or panic attacks. The medical world often provides a drug call Ativan and people are told to slip one of these pills under their tongues when they feel an attack coming on and, for a short time, one is released from the pressure. It saddens me to see that so many people believe that their problem is outside of their control and some brain chemical problem. If there is a genocide today that is going unnoticed, it is the millions of people that are on psychotropic medication, for a mental illness. Psychiatrists and pharmaceutical companies have teamed up to give human beings their greatest excuse for not being responsible for their lives. This approach is one in which the authority of psychiatry and drug companies is killing part of us that is creative. If you destroy a person’s creative system it is killing their humanity. Out of the creative system comes all our folly but also all of our triumph. The creative system within a human being is the thing that separates us from the animals. It allows us to behave in ways animals can’t and allows us to have domain over the earth. To give authority over to psychiatrists, who are the priests of the modern age, is to conform through very damaging measures, as these drugs do physical damage to the brain.

Most of the anxiety people suffer from is the direct result of their inability to face their self-centered and thought-created existence. Ponder this for a moment: all anxiety is rooted in fear, and when that fear is alive in your mind you are in a state of panic. Panic attacks are the result of your self coming to terms with all the lies you have created about yourself, your life and others in it. These attacks are like the true part of yourself which, for some reason, can’t hold back your own self deception.

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Frantic women In Fear

April 19, 2004

I was at the library and a women about 35 years old came in carrying papers and books in a sour mood. She was a well dressed professional and our eyes met as she sat down beside me at the next computer.

Having a bad day?

Ya I am , she barked out. She got up went do get something else and in 5 minutes was back with a pile of books. Another a few minutes went by and she was pouring through books and getting angry.

How long do you want to keep being angry?

Excuse me?!

I see you’re angry. Do you want to keep being angry?

Its that bad?

Well it is for you! What’s it all about?

Well, I teach at a private school and the kids are doing great !

So that’s not it.

Well I teach an enriched program and these kids are smart – they are sometimes doing 3 to 4 years higher work – but the parents hate me.

Why do you think that?

I just had a parents night and explained what the kids are doing, and all they give me is grief. I don’t know I just don’t think they’re fair. I work my ass off for these kids.

I’m sure you do!

How do you know? You have never seen me teach.

I don’t have to!

Yeah and why is that!

Because you’re in here talking to me about something that is really important to you and you really care about those kids!

Yeah but I could kill those parents. Why do they hate me?

Well, what have you done to get the parents to help them understand what you are doing with the kids?

Well I have done a pile of things! But the parents are not even interested. They don’t even understand what their kids are doing.

Hah you’re a smart girl! What do people do when you present them with something they don’t understand?

Well, they are usually afriaid!

So do you think they hate you now?

Probably not!

I agree with the truth of what you taught me today teach! People are always fearful or dislike things they don’t understand!

I taught you that?

You said it, not me. Can I ask you another question?

Sure.

What do you think the source of your problem is?

Well I think it’s me and wanting the parents to understand they have great kids!

Yeah but what else?

Boy, you are pushy!

Yeah I know but what else???

Ok, Ok, maybe I should put more energy into the parents

Ok. So what about the parents??

Maybe finding a way to improve my relationship with them!

YES! How do you think that would help your situation?

They would treat me nicer because they would understand what I’m doing ?

You GOT IT!

Look at the books I have out, some of the titles – Anger Management, Messed Up Parents … (we had a great laugh together)

Well I have to go. Thanks!

No, thank you!