Wednesday, July 20, 2011


From previous post Anxiety

“Because anxiety affects our thinking capacities, it diminishes clarity and objectivity. It interferes with our capacity to think creatively. We cannot stand outside of the vague dread and observe it."  Dr. Peter Steinke.

Suspense generates excitement in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. He is quoted as saying, “If you touch off a bomb, your audience gets a ten-second shock. But if the audience knows that the bomb has been planted, then you can build up the suspense and keep them in a state of expectation for five minutes.”

That’s great cinematography but in an organization, uncertainty and tension of opposites creates anxiety. Anxiety in an organization that is uncertain of its direction explodes into discord and disunity. Its free-floating-fear fastens onto an issue or person blowing rumors and opinions out of proportion.

Another Hitchcock technique hid aspects of reality from the viewer. The scene would begin looking normal and safe, but behind the ordinary lurked extraordinary evil. As the camera would lead the viewer through the home or the office or the church—although I don’t know of a Hitchcock movie revealing the evil possible in a congregation—a nervous unsettling would stir in the viewer. He played with our natural anxiety.

Congregations mired in anxiety are only fooling themselves. A visitor may not know what specifically is wrong, but they are uncomfortable and exit never to return. And the reputation is made. Unlike "The Birds" or "Psycho", organizations disintegrating in conflict are not recommended for second viewing.

Dementia is more honest about anxiety. Loud noises, raised voices whether laughing or angry, door bells, unexpected changes cause emotional pain and the reaction is immediate.

Our seniors have taught us to listen before speaking, nod sagely, breathe deeply and deliberately before responding to their upset. Their anxiety can never be ignored and passed on for another day. (I apologize to my children that I lacked this skill when they lived in my home.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Some days we look into Grace’s eyes and it appears there is no one home. It is as if she slid out of bed during the night and disappeared into the darkness. She looks at us with suspicion as if we are the culprits who spirited herself away.

We circle her quietly, attending to her basic needs. She rejects us with a wave of her hand while closing her eyes to convey the rejection beyond doubt.

We know the person slumped in the chair and suffer with her as Dementia destroys her mind. Our goal is always to encourage her living skills as she is able. Days like today are cruel and anticipate her dying.

Her children visit often and follow the progression. While experiencing negative emotions is painful, the reality of participation in life and death prepares them for the inevitable, for themselves as well as their mother.

I empathize with children who cannot force themselves to enter this reality, who do not share the days of living and of dying. But I want to tell them that they are missing the practice of cultivating compassion toward others. And in time, acceptance of their own diminishing.