CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Off and on during the past couple of months I've had to engage in the art of tough love. Now I know how it got its name. I'm just wondering whether it's tougher on the receiver or the sender.
Tough love has been defined as "an expression used when someone treats another person harshly or sternly with the intent to help them in the long run."
This kind of behavior is definitely not my strong suit, and I find myself second-guessing about the intensity with which to employ it. It goes back to that prunes formula: Three enough? Six too many?
No doubt you're familiar with stories about concerned parents who have gone to the wall for a drug-addicted child and then reach a point where they refuse to support them financially until he or she enters a drug rehabilitation program. Or a coach who trains his players hard and is strict, but the discipline is intended for the greater good.
Even though it's been a rocky road, I'm feeling a sense of accomplishment about this latest round. The jury is still out on the final effects; things seem to be moving in the right direction, though.
As I write this column I've been up for almost 24 straight hours dealing with a family member in another time zone. Without an owner's manual - and coupled with the challenges of geography and timing - I felt somewhat uneasy when I last tried to sleep.
After tossing and turning, though, I bolted out of bed at 3 a.m. and came downstairs to write out an intervention strategy on my computer. I was definitely on a roll. It all seemed to flow onto the page. At least that's what it seemed like in the middle of the night.
And then there was the silence after the "send" button was pushed. And the patience it takes to wait. And wait.
Fortunately, I had a lot of other things to do that helped to distract me from looking incessantly for a response on my cell phone or computer. Finally it came. As I opened the e-mail message, I was pleasantly surprised at the response. My plan had been accepted (at least for the time being) - not embraced, but I'll take accepted for now.
This has definitely been one of those "can't see the forest for the trees" lessons for my family member. All I did was point out the obvious - in a way that could be "heard" and received. Once I got that down, the plan seemed to flow from there.
And that's the way it is with life challenges. When we're knee-deep in a situation with all the accompanying emotional components, it can seem like there's no way out. We've likely all experienced situations in which we feel trapped or frozen - at least temporarily. Weighing things back and forth. And back and forth.
Inertia sets in. So, I just applied some "ertia." (Thanks to my friend Pam for coining this term.)
Even as I write, a conference call with a professional is taking place with my family member today. It will become so much easier for others to get on board and support the plan - once there is a plan and it's mapped out.