Discipline is not Punishment

This has come up a few times in working with people and has generally led to some “Ah Ha!!” moments, especially when the topic is self-discipline.

Our society tends to equate discipline and punishment. However, the words have completely different roots, and those roots have completely different meanings. The root word of “discipline” is the same as the root word of “disciple” and the meaning of that root is “instruction, learning”. So discipline involves teaching, and self-discipline involves teaching ourselves.

The word “punishment” comes from the word “penalty” and the root word of “penalty” means “pain.” So punishment is about pain and discipline is about teaching.

We now know that, despite aphorisms to the contrary, pain is NOT a useful teacher except for developing simple reflexes. For example, learning not to touch something that is hot. However, when we need to learn a complex task, pain is either useless or interferes with learning.  If you want someone to learn a complex task, then you have to teach them the processes that will make them successful, not simply inflict pain on them.

That brings us to self-discipline. When we confuse discipline with punishment, then we will tend to avoid self-discipline as we are usually in enough pain already. Who would want to add more? Or we grit our teeth and punish ourselves for “bad behaviors”, which does nothing to teach us how to avoid those behaviors. Eventually we get worn out and then beat ourselves up for not having “self-discipline.”

However, when we understand discipline as teaching instead of punishment, then self-discipline is simply the art of learning to teach ourselves. We stop punishing ourselves mindlessly and look for ways to train ourselves to change. Whether we are trying to develop healthier habits, adhere to a course of study, or be a better spouse, parent or friend, self-discipline simply involves looking for ways to learn those more effectively. We become our own teachers.

When we understand how discipline is fundamentally different than punishment, then we can work to emphasize learning over pain or discomfort when we discipline others. This is especially important if we are in a parenting, mentoring or supervisory role.

Note that discipline is far more difficult to perform than punishment. Any idiot can inflict pain on someone, or make their life more miserable. To teach someone effectively, to discipline someone, one must know the subject that is being taught and understand where the person is having difficulty. One must then give the person tasks that will teach them what they need to learn in a progressive manner. Those tasks may involve discomfort or even pain, as I experienced many times during my training. But the discomfort or pain are not the purpose of the tasks, and the tasks will usually be more effective at teaching if they minimize the pain involved.

Its Safe to Feel Fear

I work with many people who struggle with a sense of being uneasy, fearful, nervous, anxious, restless, on edge, tense, etc. Essentially these are all fear in some form or another. Relaxation exercises do not help because while they may give temporary relief, the fear comes right back.

This is caused by feedback among several brain areas. I will give a simple explanation of that here, as well as a simple and effective solution. An podcast version of this is available on Soundcloud. Continue reading Its Safe to Feel Fear

Butter Meditation

I had a request for a shorter version of the butter melting video and I added a relaxing audio to it. Also played around with a short intro to get more of a hang of using the software. The intention is to use the video to help you experience a sense of tension melting away and then rest in that relaxed state which is both recharging and healing. Enjoy!

If anyone is interested the software I am using for the video is Camtasia 2

Butter Relaxing in the Sun

I posted this at the request of a patient who thought it would help her relax.

For those who are not my patient the instructions are to imagine your body is like a lump of butter sitting in the sun soaking up the warmth of the sun’s rays and gradually softening.

It may be the most boring video on the Web.

I did not have time to edit it much but I will add a suitably boring, I mean relaxing, audio accompaniment soon.

Permission and Advice

Another short post:

I learned a very simple rule years ago about giving advice, whether to friends, relatives or children. It is amazingly simple, incredibly effective, and really hard to stick to.  The rule is:

Get permission before giving advice or offering suggestions.

My experience, and the reports I get from the people I have shared this with, is that when we have permission to give advice then we are much more likely to be listened to. And if we are not given permission then by graciously keeping quiet we avoid wasting a lot of energy and annoying the listener.

This is a very hard rule to follow so the damage-control rule is:

If you gave advice without permission, apologize.

Regarding when to start doing this with children. Once when my daughter was 3 she was having difficulty putting her shoes on. I asked her if she wanted some help and she replied “I do it myself!!”

 

 

Short Parenting Tip 1

I got some very positive feedback this week on way of handling a common parent-child interaction. So thought I’d share it.

General case

  • Parent: “You need to ——–.”
  • Child: “I don’t want to ——–.”
  • Parent: “I didn’t tell you to want to ——–. I told you to ——–.”

Example

  • Parent: “You need to do your homework.”
  • Child: “I don’t want to do my homework.”
  • Parent: “I didn’t tell you to want to do your homework. I told you to do your homework.”

 

 

Escaping From Thoughts – Fast

One common complaint I hear is the sense that the person is trapped in their thoughts, especially worried thoughts.  This is a technique to train your mind to shift attention away from thoughts into your body, without trying to stop thoughts. It teaches you to get out of your head. The more skill you have shifting your attention away from thoughts to sensations the easier it will be to ignore worried or other unhelpful thoughts without having to stop them or change them. Continue reading Escaping From Thoughts – Fast

Imagination and Healing: A Few Points

I have had a few people with questions about how to use their imagination to evoke beneficial physical or emotional changes. There were a couple of points that they were struggling with. One was whether what they were imagining needed to look similar to what was going on in their body. Another was a tendency to get concerned if their image changed as they continued to practice.

To address these I will use a metaphor of a computer. Continue reading Imagination and Healing: A Few Points

Authority Figures, Community and the Addict

One of the social aspects of addiction is the sense of community that addicts have with each other. While a major emphasis of that community is the drug/alcohol use, it still provides a sense of belonging. That  can make it difficult for addicts to stop using because they do not yet have a healthy community with whom to feel that sense of belonging. Continue reading Authority Figures, Community and the Addict

Addiction, the Brain, and the Jewel Wasp

One of the common themes I hear from addicts is how they experience their mind as hijacked. They are on their way to obtain drugs and the whole time they are telling themselves “Turn around!!! This is crazy!!! I can’t do this!!!” But their body is under the control of something other than themselves. I have also heard this from people who are addicted to behaviors other than just drug use, such as eating disorders or gambling. How can someone be a prisoner in their own body, watching in horror as they engage in behaviors that are abhorrent to them? To understand this let’s shift gears and look at the jewel wasp. Continue reading Addiction, the Brain, and the Jewel Wasp

Breath- Spirit – Peace

Meditation techniques train various mental qualities. We can use the qualities for many purposes. Spiritual traditions emphasize that the most important purpose for meditation is spiritual practice, and the development of qualities such as love or peace. The following meditation begins as a relaxing breathing exercise and then flows from that to an experience of a peaceful presence.

If you want to download the audio you should be able to at Soundcloud by clicking on the Soundcloud link in the top menu.

For further discussion of the technique — Continue reading Breath- Spirit – Peace

Stress and Obesity, part I

I have had a couple of patients recently who described their intense emotional pain after hearing people make derogatory comments at them while they were shopping for food or in other public places. I think its obscene how it seems OK in our society to bash fat people for being fat. You’re not supposed to bash people because of their gender, race, sexual orientation or whatever (which is good), but if someone is fat then its OK (which is just wrong).

I want to explain why making people feel guilty about being fat just makes things worse, This has nothing to do with being politically correct, and everything to do with neuroendocrinology. Along the way I hope to give you some insights into the way the body deals with weight and fat that may help you understand how we can attain and maintain a healthy weight. Here we go. Continue reading Stress and Obesity, part I

Contemplation Health Performance Relationships Spirituality