Life can be hard and there’s no guarantee of our safety from one day to the next. In fact, one of the few guarantees we do have is that our lives will someday end.
To be sure, these are rather bleak facts, but they are facts nonetheless. But it’s also a fact that today, in our country, for most families, really dangerous or traumatic events are rare. Not zero, but rare.
Many adult patients struggle to accept these facts. They spend their days practicing a strategy that is ultimately unworkable: They wake each morning hoping, planning, analyzing ways to get through their day free of pain, suffering, or discomfort. It can occupy much of their mental energy, robbing them of the moments when they can be in the world, in their lives, and with those they love.
But there is a different way to live. It’s waking each morning open to what life might bring—good or bad. It’s a life in which emotions are seen as natural and essential. Sometimes the emotions are tough, nasty, and unpleasant. We don’t like those kinds of feelings and we don’t like the facts that gave rise to those feelings. But as Carl Rogers once said, “The facts are always friendly.”
So what’s our task as parents?
Do we start early helping them hide from and escape the emotional pain and suffering life can bring? Or do we teach them to make room for life struggles and life events that sometimes (we can’t even say when) shake us and leave us feeling alone or scared?
As parents, we can’t help our children cope with traumatic events or the threat of danger unless we truly accept that life is hard and comes with no guarantees. How we fashion that message for young ears, when is it best to deliver that message—those details can be figured out. The real task is the wise and solemn acceptance of life as it is.
I’m from Baton Rouge, Louisiana but I live and work in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I’m a clinical child/family psychologist but wear lots of different hats. I’m a husband. My wife Lauri is one of the most loving people I know. Being her husband is like winning the love lottery: I have this wonderful prize and I did nothing to deserve it! I’m a father. We have 2 daughters and a son: All are in college, all are in their 20s, and all are finding their own way in life.
I’m a practicing psychologist. I work with troubled kids, defiant teens, worried parents, struggling couples, and what I call “lost men”. That’s my term for men who have successful careers but have lost their way and are at risk of losing the people they love. I’m a college professor. I teach in the Department of Psychological Science at the University of Arkansas. I’m a social scientist. I study ways to help children through improved parenting or helpful mentoring. I’m a mentor. I’ve been a Big Brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters for over 2 years. I’m grateful that my Little Brother and his mother let me part of his life.
A common theme across these many roles is my interest in the many “gifts” that come from being in a healthy, caring relationship. So many good things are possible when our relationships are safe, loving, and sustained. But some of us struggle to find, create, or maintain healthy relationships.
My hope is that my website (DrTimCavell.com) can provide some measure of hope to those who are hopeless, a bit of guidance to those who are lost, and plenty of affirmation to those whose relationships are health and growth promoting.