Ask Jonathots … May 12th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog


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My daughter is in the first grade. She’s always been very shy and insecure, which her father and I have been trying to address with encouragement. But the school psychologist tells me she’s developing a neurosis and I should take her to a psychiatrist. What is a neurosis?

Being neurotic is having a fear of the edge of a cliff which is in front of you.

Psychotic is thinking that the edge of the cliff is chasing you.

But there is a situation where we become so afraid of the edge of the cliff that we keep backing away from it while increasing our trepidation and limiting our possibilities.

Although I am sure there are psychological and physiological reasons for people to be afraid, normally in the case of a child, these insecurities are caused by hesitation, which is accepted by parents who don’t want to “push” their children.

There is a certain amount of jeopardy necessary if we want to grow instead of falling back into intimidation.

What do I mean?

Let’s say your little daughter takes piano lessons. She comes home at the end of the first lesson and says, “I don’t like piano.”

So you ask her to go a second week, but she has even less passion–so when she returns from the lesson and is nearly in tears over being pressured into doing this adventure, you give in and let her quit.

She’s relieved.

You feel you’ve done a good thing because she’s no longer terrified. But terrified is not a position of life–rather, it’s a reaction to it. And if you don’t live enough, you gradually become horrified by things that used to be enjoyable. This is where we develop a neurosis.

You’re catching this at the right time.

We’re not trying to turn all of our children into concert pianists, Broadway dancers or professional athletes. But we are trying to teach them to begin something, muddle through the middle and finish it the best they can.

Success does not go to the world’s most talented people. Success is achieved by those who are still around when the awards are handed out.

So let me make three quick suggestions:

1. Sign a contract.

In other words, if your daughter wants to take piano lessons, make her sign a contract that says she will stay with it for two months. Hold her to it.

2. Encourage what is encourageable.

Children are not stupid. They know when we’re insincere and when we really think they might have done something good. Point out what seems to be growing without criticizing what is lacking.

3. Learn to ask why.

If your child says she’s afraid, have her verbalize the source of her fear and explain why she thinks that is acceptable or why she believes it needs to change.

Fears are not alleviated by conquering them, but rather, by talking about them so we’re in the right mindset to begin to address the problem.

If you do these three things while she’s still young, she won’t become convinced that she’s just not “a particular type of person.”

I can always recognize someone who’s poorly trained. They will begin a discussion by telling you what they aren’t instead of stepping forward with what they are.

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Climbing In — October 5, 2011


Dollie just returned from Miami, Florida, with the new van we purchased.  (Of course, I’ve already told you two things that aren’t exactly true.  It is not a new van, but rather, the newest model we can afford. And secondly, we didn’t exactly purchase it–we put some money down on it and now we have an addressable monthly installment.)  Dollie had spent two weeks playing “Grandma” while my son and daughter-in-law were in Europe.

Now, the main concern with this van was whether I would be able to get into the driver’s seat easily. Having acquired two bad knees and a body which does not have much will to lift itself very high anymore, there was a question about my portability for such a maneuver.  I know to some of you this may seem strange or maybe even pathetic, but of course, I might be equally concerned over your apprehension about writing a daily 1,000-word essay for the Internet.  Bluntly, we all have enough “weird” in us to make us normal.

So before the van arrived, I was curious about my ability to ascend to the throne. Once curiosity has been visited two or three times, it transforms itself into doubt. Doubt is where we live until the actual threat to our being arrives and then suddenly, we sprout a full dose of uncontrolled fear. It’s sneaky stuff.

If we were smart, we would speak our concerns aloud during the curious phase and get many of them relieved by other fellow-travelers sharing their experience and faith in us. But usually we keep curiosity to ourselves until it mutates into doubt. Now, doubt it really hard to share with anyone–because as good Americans we have been taught to free ourselves of negativity and always look on the bright side of life and to “believe, believe, believe.”  So if we can’t sprout that crop of energetic hopefulness, we tend to want to keep it to ourselves. But when doubt sits in our hearts, it is just waiting for an excuse to become afraid.

So when the van pulled up and it was my time to go out and climb in, my curiosity, which had become doubt, exploded in a burst of fear.  So my attempts to get into the vehicle were really feeble.  I cast aside everything I knew and tried to climb straight up into it, which forced me to use my knee to pivot in the seat, causing pain and making me begin to believe I would be unable to use this blessing which I had acquired. The second attempt was even worse–fear was now in control.

Anyone watching would have had a great hoot and holler over my contortions, especially if they were the types to be drawn to sideshow events–a two-headed frog in a mason jar.

I stopped trying. 

No, that’s good. Attempts made in fear only reinforce the idea that we are helpless. Instead, I went backwards. I sat in my room overnight and addressed my doubts. Why did I think I wasn’t going to be able to get in that van? Why did I feel that something I had accomplished before was now beyond my ability? Dealing with those doubts returned me to my curious phase. I realized that my curiosity was more about the fact that I did not want to dread driving.  Good point!

So the next morning, with no audience around, I opened the door of the van and looked at it. I allowed my brain to work instead of my trepidation. I discovered there were two steps and even a handle to assist me to enter. It was inspiring and hilarious at the same time, as I simply followed a pattern of thinking and entered my new van without any trouble. I haven’t perfected it yet, making it a part of my mental bank, but that’s just a matter of time.

Progress is all God asks of anybody–and the only enemy of progress is fear.  And the mother of fear is doubt.  Doubt is allowed to hang around because we have not thoroughly answered our curiosities.

Will I be able to transfer this information I learned about climbing into my van to the next adventure? I hope so. 

But of course, hope only works if you don’t allow your curiosity to kill your cool cat.


Jonathan sings “Let”

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

Jonathan and his partner, Janet Clazzy, play “The Call”


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