By Kevin Roberts | April 8, 2007
Students of human behavior have long sought to understand the links between individual human behavior and group dynamics or group behavior. This posting will just begin to touch on the topic. It is one that is very important to people with disabilities, it is important because often there is a disconnect or poor communication between disabled persons, within their own particular disability (for example, cerebral palsy, quadraplegia, amputations). Often, the poor communication is even greater if we examine it across disabilities. The term disconnect is a relatively new one and originates from computer terminology. Our individual and human behavioral understanding utilizes this very descriptive term when it it tries to understand how we get along, or, more specifically, how we do not seem to get along, or communicate very very well with one another.
Freud felt that when people meet, they seem to emphasize their differences rather than their similarities. We seem to look for ways that we are different than for the ways we we may be similar. If that is so, one can see how this process of disconnecting begins virtually from the start of a new interaction. Perhaps, this is a reflexive process that begins very early. Obviously, it is not the only process operating in initial or subsequent contacts, because if that were so, we would have few connects, little in the way of similar beliefs,attitudes and feelings, and thereby few friendships, liasons, and lasting connections and relationships. These phenomena suggest we might want to examine those early reflexive reactions that we are disposed to in the early going, both the extremely positive ones and surely, the extremely negative ones.
How might any of this be important to people with disabilities? As stated in other postings, disabled persons, for very complex reasons, often have negative views of themselves. Many views that they did not originate and maintain, some views of themselves where they did maintain their own self negativity. Now, let us assume that it would be an extremely positive thing for people who do not value themselves as individuals to acquire the processes and ability to do do so. Furthermore, it would also be an extremely positive thing for people who do not value themselves as a group to in turn learn to value themselves as a group. Why? Because it feels better, works better and accomplishes more. We have seen this process work time and time again with other minorities. And, here is the largest minority in our country, 56 million people with disabilities, and we have been unable to engage in the same process of personal and group elevation of spirit and power.
I would ask that all of us begin a very easy exercise and one that might yield some interesting results. When out and about, or television watching, or newspaper reading, or in the business of looking out the window of your home, when looking at people you regard as unlike you, see if you can imagine similarities where you feel there are none. And, where you spot or imagine some similarities, see if you can imagine even more by just using your imagination and creativity. We shall use follow ups of this exercise in later postings. Creativity and imagination can inspire and extend thinking and believing, for the individual and common good.
By Kevin Roberts | March 26, 2007
Gratefulness is a blessing, not an indebtedness. We owe no one when we are grateful, we have been simply granted something you could never have designed for yourself, even if you were foolish enough to have undertaken the task. It is a feeling that fills the heart, floods the brain, drops your chin, shakes your head, time after time after time.
Grateful is clearly part of our notion of attitude. It is a subset of “good attitude.” It is that part of good attitude that allows us to feel we have been given something, totally unexpected. Undreamed of……………beyond your wildest dreams. And, while gratefulness, is a feeling that can bring you to your knees, literally or figuratively, gratefulness has no intention of subjugating you to the power of another. Rather, gratefulness just hopes you can see the conjoining, the cooperation, the good fortune between you and that which produces your feeling of gratefulness.
How much of life would be missed, passed over, unrecognized if the attitude of gratefulness was not available to us. What if our woes, misfortunes and the like stole every last ounce of your ability to feel grateful…………..we would be at risk for ever feeling very good again generally, and at risk for feeling grateful generally. What an existence? So very sad.
When I started this blog, I started writing some other things too. Things about my relationship between myself and my wife, who passed in September. Things that my daughter already knew, and some she could not have known. Things that provided an explanation where none had been before. Information she might appreciate knowing more about. I was disabled before my wife and I actually met, dated, engaged and were married. She was not disabled.
This last paragraph here is the last paragraph in the first note I had written to my daughter:
“I loved mom so deeply. You know, it never really struck me simply how beautiful mom was until later in our first year of marriage. Long after our dating and being engaged. Actually, it was a gorgeous day, the summer of our first year of graduate school, after she had been on a diet and lost about 10 pounds (we were outside on the front lawn of our apartment). She was wearing maroon jeans. Up to then, she was cute, attractive, smiling, full of life, smart, giving, loving to be loved and be loving. I just stared at her and thought, “what in the f__k did I do to deserve this.?” “This young woman is stunning. I have seen no one on this entire campus who resembles this sort of beauty.” You might say I was grateful, for everything about her, “grateful cubed.”
By Kevin Roberts | March 18, 2007
Everyone struggles, some have larger burdens, some have ones you might scoff at as inconsequential and others have some too, their struggle is getting over the struggle with the struggle. Some encounter life’s gifts simultaneously to their problems. Some lead glorious lives until they and their family are undone, hopefully only for a while, by an illness, by an injury, by the loss of a matriarch and/or patriarch that had sustained them all for decades, one way or another. What are we to do? My dad would have patted you on the back gently, looked at you intently and said, “keep a stiff upper lip.” He would have then drawn you to his side and you both would have lingered for a time, saying nothing………saying everything.
When I was first injured, I can remember there seemed to be two camps about problems generally, disabilities specifically. That is, was it worse to have it occur at birth, early and the like, or was it preferable to it have become your albatross later in life? Well, have you stopped beating your dog yet, seemed to be the tenor of that offering….No time was the only acceptable answer, it was never something that should have happened. You must have been born under a dark cloud to think we need problems or tragedy at any time in our lives, any of us. And, we don’t need it, but we have it……………what we do need or should I say, is advantageous to have, is a good attitude, preferably in the DNA and/or acquired early enough to be a resource by the first year of life. All right, fifth year year of life. What? Some folks do not acquire their present state of good attitude until they are in their thirties. Neurons firing, heart pumping? It takes what it takes to acquire your own good attitude, but there are some pieces of advice, nah, wisdom, so much more appropos of the five year old or thirty year old cerebration in this arena, be patient, be observant, ask questions, put yourself in others’ position the best you can and see if you get a year of good attitude in less than a month.
When, I was at a university and had been teaching all the typical undergrad courses like abnormal, personality, adolescent psychology and one blockbuster graduate course, several faculty members approached me as a group and asked if I would teach a new course that they and the chair of the department wanted to add to the curriculuum. They had my attention and I was curious. They said it could be totally my design though it would need to be signed off on, and they then added they already had the title for the course. They wanted it to be called “Problems in Normal Life.” Remaining restrained, I was beside myself. These guys got it, somebody got it…………..there are issues of wonderfulness and disappointment everywhere, abnormal, NORMAL. Thereby you need solutions and good attitude every step of the way. I left that interaction, for a few moments, like MC Hammer, “Can’t Touch Me.”
By Kevin Roberts | March 16, 2007
In looking at the term attitude, so many thoughts come to mind. He or she has a “bad” attitude. That usually means a “chip” on the shoulder, wanting to pick a fight or an argument. Then, on the other hand, the remark “Jane (Joe), man, she really has a good attitude” would connote a very different meaning. First, it would be favorable, Jane or Joe would be being paid a compliment. Something that is likely to bring a smile to Jane or Joe’s face. Would it mean they were beautiful or handsome, might it mean they were the smartest persons in the workplace, or in class? Would it mean we felt sorry for Joe or Jane because they were the poorest workers on the job? The poorest students at school?
If and when, someone overheard the remark made about Jane and/or Joe that “man, she really has a good attitude, would that someone who heard that shout out “hey, wait a minute, what about my attitude?” “What is wrong with mine?” Probably not. If the listener thought about it at all, it would probably be more like (to him or herself), “man, what might folks say about my attitude? What does my mom or dad, my husband or wife, my boss or guy that works with or for me say about my attitude?” Damn, that’s easy, they don’t say much of anything, either way about my attitude. Who the hell runs around talking about anybody’s attitude?” Whoa, hold on now, somebody who knew Jane or Joe certainly had the presence of mind, and the kindness to make that extremely positive remark about her (him).
Then, of course, you would really know you were extremely struck concerning what you heard about Joe or Jane, if you went through all of the above sequences and then find yourself asking, “what do I think about my own attitude?” Hey, man I know I am smart and look good…….cut it out, that is not what “having a good attitude means.” Damn, you’re a hawk!
Well, just what does “have(ing) a good attitude mean? What does a good attitude look and sound like? What does someone with a good attitude believe? Maybe you might squeeze and push some thoughts out on paper on this topic, or in your mind, ….initially. What are the (if you will) who, what, where, how and why of “having a good attitude?” Do able bodied people have a good atttitude? Do people with disabilities have a good attitude? Do white or black people have a good attitude? Do religious or non-religious people have a good attitude? I shall conclude this posting, by saying, “that I am delighted that you overheard the favorable remarks made about both Jane and Joe.
By Kevin Roberts | March 10, 2007
Thus far, two pieces have been posted. One a brief introduction to Attitude, something we shall pursue at length in subsequent postings, and two, some background about the coach and historical activities.
Now, the third posting is about why in the world I have begun this endeavor. Basically, it is because I have seen too many self limiting factors and other (s) limiting factors that have prevented individuals, people with disabilities, from becoming all that they are capable of, all that they could accomplish, all that they could enjoy and share with others. While I am a realist, I am an optimistic realist, if you will. What does that mean or translate to………it means that while limitations may be present now, they do not have to remain present, controlling and dimming the hopes and dreams of those individuals or groups of people presently governed by them. Bear in mind, as suggested by the Attitude posting, both others and ourselves can be acting as the inhibitor, others can be in our way of full growth, but we, ourselves can be our own worst enemy in the hunt for full lives.
So, The Disability Coach will constantly address these points, trying to discern accountability for limitations, is it me, or them or both? That way a proper solution can be devised to change the restrictions. At the same time, The Disability Coach will be searching for the facilitators of positive change, the good guys, same possibility for answering, me, them, or both.
There are huge opportunities for this blog to do good things, providing all of us stay the course. Do the best you can, expect the same from others, but be forgiving of both when appropriate. This effort can improve educational opportunities for people with disabilities. It can improve social contact and general social interaction, face to face or otherwise. It can improve self esteem and confidence, confidence to move ahead in areas you would have shunned, ridiculed or just run from…..quickly. We, that is, people with disabilities, can become a force. A force for change within individuals, families, neighborhoods and your own home town. There are 56 million disabled persons in this country alone. Can you imagine what a force that could bring in political, economic and governmental ways? With those kind of numbers, and our perceiving ourselves as powerful, benevolent creatures and not victims, we could do amazing things. Those are some of the reasons for the creation of this blog, The Disability Coach.
By Kevin Roberts | March 8, 2007
My first large error since beginning this blog——I erased the first one. The second blog remains in its entirety in the archives section, for now! A quick review of the first.
I welcome you again to this blog for the disability coach. The Disability Coach name was coined by the manager of a sports radio station (610 Sports) in Houston, Texas. Dickie Rosenfeld gave me a very unique opportunity and I shall always remember him fondly for that, and, as one of those spunky, smaller stature guys you so frequently find in sports. Dickie was willing to put a radio show on the air about people with disabilities. Not on public broadcasting nor on a public awareness channel, but on a very successful, commercial radio sports station. He may have been small of stature, but I daresay some parts of his anatomy must been gargantuan and made of steel.
Around that time, I developed a program for people with disabilities. An educational program designed and aimed at providing experiences where natural occurrences and events had not been so kind. It was not for crazy folks, or those regarded as suffering some horrific, miserable rotten existence; it was for folks with a disability of some sort that had caused them to not get all the lessons the rest of the world may have taken for granted. Education, learning, acquiring snap and social, savior faire. This is the language for this program under discussion, not the usual words, of disease, severe injury or congential deformities. There are plenty of heart felt people working their tails off with dedication in those areas of study and they often use the language of medicine and physical rehabilitation. Thank God for them and their efforts. This program is aimed at the social, educational and psychological side of human functioning, areas that are usually neglected, for a variety of reasons perhaps, but usually neglected, when it comes to concentrated programming in these equally essential areas. I am a disabled person, I have a doctorate in clinical psychology, I have done research, taught, supervised and treated the able bodied as well as the disabled. I feel I have the inclination, ability, training and dedication to be of service to people with disabilities, and in the areas of my concentration, I can almost guarantee that no one has pulled them aside and talked the way we could.
I have termed the program, The P. O. W. E. R. Program. The P stands for Pride, The O stands for Optimism. The W stands for Wellness. The E stands for Excellence. The R stands for Resilience.
It is my sentiment and belief that all of these attributes, these characteristics, these personality features are acquirable. Like I said earlier, education and learning, words of development, not static states and impossible boundaries.
By Kevin Roberts | March 7, 2007
When one is different, in a way that is regarded by many as negative, something less, it is easy for that one person to also regard himself or herself in a negative manner. Why? Because that person often has no reference point for his or her strengths, positive characteristics and the like. Strengths and positive characteristics can be blessings that have been given us, or virtues we have cultivated in ourselves. That is brains, good looks or decency, empathy and joy in the successes of others as well ourselves. Why is there not a reference point for positive aspects of people? Often, we simply live in cultures that have arranged things that way forever, and I or you just stepped into it, so to speak. Another reason can be that our loved ones want so badly to not have us held back, that they just focus on problems and their solution, and not the strengths we have that are not as obvious. They do that because they fear others will never look closely enough for our strengths, virtues and positiveness and thereby find favor in their hearts for us/me/you. Therein, loved ones can easily and unknowingly conspire to not present a reference point for for positive aspects of their loved ones. Reference point for positive aspects of people that are regarded, on the face of it, as different in some negative fashion.
Everyone would rather be good looking than not so, everyone would rather be gifted with exceptional intelligence than not so, just as most of us would rather have good luck than bad, and fame and fortune rather than being treated poorly and/or indifferently, and, lastly, as Mae West told us, “I have been rich and I have been poor, rich is better.”
But what if you, me, we, us, they, them or I, am not?