Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Power of Partnership

Skype Meeting with Congressman Kendrick Meek

Saylen, David, Xavier Moore Jr. and Seth Eisenberg applaud for Congressman Kendrick Meek during Miami meeting with the Congressman via Skype.

Shortly after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, I messaged U.S. Congressman Kendrick Meek via Facebook with information about a PAIRS class we were teaching in the heart of Miami’s Little Haiti community to help formerly homeless residents of a Carrfour Supportive Housing Community develop stronger relationships with their neighbors and loved ones. Almost instantly the Congressman personally responded via Facebook, directing me to his Miami District Director, Joyce Postell, with a request that I call her with information about the event. When we began the class several days later — sharing exercises to help the participants understand and express emotions, confide with loved ones, and work through conflicts in ways that deepen their closest relationships — Congressman Meek’s Director was there on his behalf.

I was immediately impressed with Congressman Meek’s responsiveness and technical savvy, his genuine concern for the residents of his District, and tangible desire to learn about innovative approaches to improving the lives of the most vulnerable citizens in our community.

We followed up with the Congressman Meek’s staff to schedule a personal meeting with him in Miami to give us a chance to share more with him about our work in his district and nationwide, hear from him directly about his longstanding efforts to support legislation and initiatives to improve the lives of his constituents, and talk about his campaign to become Florida’s next U.S. Senator.

We particularly wanted Congressman Meek to meet Xavier and Saylen Moore and their two young children, third grader David and first grader Xavier Junior. The Moore Family lives in Liberty City, one of America’s most distressed neighborhoods just miles from downtown Miami where drugs, crime, and deadly violence is part of the daily life of children and adults in the community. We met the Moore Family in February during a PAIRS’ training for parents of children at Liberty City Elementary School. The two of them represent only a small number of residents in Liberty City who are married. Recent statistics revealed that just one in ten Liberty City households include married couples. Their ability to navigate the challenges of their relationship has enabled them to actively support their children’s academic success and their own. Saylen Moore is just weeks away from completing her graduate degree in Social Work. Xavier Moore is Vice President of Liberty City Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Association and, for the past six years, has been able to stay out of the crime and violence that is often the foundation of the lives and struggles of Liberty City’s residents, most of whom live in poverty.

Xavier Moore and Saylen Moore Meet with Congresman Kendrick Meek via Skype.

Xavier and Saylen Moore listen to Congressman Kendrick Meek via Skype meeting.

At the beginning of March, as Xavier was preparing to follow-up on his experience in the PAIRS class by attending a four-day intensive program to deepen his skills and learn to help others in his community, his 19-year-old brother, Zachary, was shot to death walking home from a club. I called him after learning of the shooting, listening to his heartache over the loss of a brother he helped raise, and encouraging him to come to the training. He said he was coming for his brother, committed to learning and working in his memory to help create a different future for his family and others.

During his days in the training, other young people in Liberty City lost their lives to violence in the streets of the community. While Xavier used the tools he learned in PAIRS to release the intense emotions of his grief within the class, others were continuing to kill each other.

Xavier and Saylen Moore, along with Seth Eisenberg, respond to Congressman Kendrick Meek during meeting via Skype.

Xavier and Saylen Moore, along with Seth Eisenberg, respond to Congressman Kendrick Meek during meeting via Skype.

Saturday morning, as we were making final preparations for our meeting with Congressman Meek in Miami, his staff let us know that he had been held in Washington by the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, who had scheduled a historic vote on landmark healthcare legislation for Sunday. They said that Congressman Meek would attend via Skype so he could talk to the Moore Family and others and that his wife, Leslie Meek, had flown in from Washington to be with us in person.

Once again, the power of partnership became powerfully apparent. The Congressman’s partnership with his devoted wife allowed him to keep his commitment to our group through her presence. She listened and spoke on his behalf while Congressman Meek followed along via Skype and also offered words of comfort and encouragement to the Moore Family.

PAIRS Group with Leslie Meek

Judge Leslie Meek, wife of U.S. Congressman Kendrick Meek, with PAIRS group following meeting in Miami Beach.

I cannot imagine a more tangible example of a dedicated public servant demonstrating his commitment to using every available tool to connect to his constituents. From Facebook and Skype to the meaningful message Leslie Meek’s support showed for empowering her husband’s passions and promises, the experience left each of us impressed, touched, inspired and hopeful.


Hurt People Hurt People

Impact of bullying

“Hurt people hurt people,” a youngster shared in a recent conversation about bullying at a local elementary school.

Hurt people hurt people,” a youngster shared in a recent conversation about bullying at a local elementary school.

In an instant, I too was back in elementary school, present to 38 years of feelings about the kid who bullied me in fifth grade; remembering my mother’s boyfriend, Joe Griffis – a retired marine colonel she’d fallen in love with after his return from Vietnam – urging, insisting, almost requiring that I stand up to the bully. My adult gut still twisted in knots as I recalled the fear I felt as I realized at the age of ten that I had no choice.

I searched my mind for evidence that the boy who so hurt me with his taunts, threats, shoves and constant belittlement may have been hurting too. After nearly four decades, I couldn’t find his face, name or any other memory to identify the boy, just the feelings of shame, fear, anger, and sadness I felt and the horror that overcame me during those days as I arrived at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School on the bus from our home in nearby Lake Barcroft.

Hurt people hurt people?

Brothers who bully, David Eisenberg, center.

Eisenberg Family, circa 1963. From left, Milton Eisenberg, Lori Eisenberg (now Lori Gordon), Beth Eisenberg (now Beth Redwood), Jonathan Eisenberg; in father's lap, Seth Eisenberg; Front and center, David Eisenberg.

I thought of my older brother – seven years my senior — and his bullying that became my daily life from the time our oldest brother graduated high school and left for college. Had he been hurt, I wondered? What was he so angry or sad about that led to the physical and emotional violence he subjected me to when he thought he could get away with it?

With few exceptions, I felt very much alone during those years, withdrawing into myself or hidden behind my camera from threatening people and events.

Today I realize how much I wasn’t alone; that my experiences are repeated daily in classrooms, playgrounds, neighborhoods and increasingly in homes, retailers, offices, and courtrooms too. Story after story in newspapers, magazines, journals, television, and blogs reveal children and adults leaking bottled up feelings of anger, fear, sadness, guilt, jealousy, and frustration by bullying others.

Some seventy years ago, Albert Einstein, one of the world’s greatest scientists, said:

“The world is a dangerous place; not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing …”

Einstein was referring to a different kind of bully; bullies who capture the reins of political, economic, and military power and turn their sites on innocents. In either case, witnesses to intolerance, abuse, and the fanaticism that can be borne from both are not innocent bystanders – the very essence and meaning of their lives emerges from the decisions they make to act, speak or, tragically, look away.

Having survived my childhood, raised two sons through their own elementary, middle and high school years, and spent hundreds of hours in their classrooms and many others teaching skills for healthy relationships, here are some suggestions for people living, learning, playing, or working with a bully.

  1. Know that a bully’s actions are about the bully, not the target. When people bottle up emotions such as sadness, fear, anger, frustration, and guilt, those feelings have energy that doesn’t just disappear. For some, feelings leak out through bullying, threatening, sarcasm, taunting and other dirty fighting tactics until eventually either imploding, which looks like sadness, depression and at the extreme suicide, or exploding, which comes out as anger, rage, and at another extreme, physical violence. Either way, the actions reflect what’s happening inside the person bottling up their feelings. Those who are closest to them – at home, work, schools, and neighborhoods – are rarely the cause of the intense emotions, although they are often the targets.

  2. Share your feelings about being bullied with a trusted friend, family member, or counselor. Feelings have energy. Negative energy can be toxic, like poison. Holding in negative emotions, especially for long periods of time, is like keeping poison inside. Before long, it spreads and infects others. Finding positive ways to release negative emotional energy is vitally important to both emotional and physical health. Some enjoy nurturing conversations, meditation and physical activities; others have found benefit from PAIRS Emptying the Emotional Jug, Heart Math, Steven Stosny’s H.E.A.L.S., and similar exercises.

  3. Create boundaries that define unacceptable behavior. Differences are a natural part of any close relationship; in fact, every single human being is unique. What are the boundaries – some call them belt lines – appropriate for you in your closest relationships? It’s important to know your boundaries and clearly communicate them to others, whether at home, school, or work. Some may not be bothered by a raised voice or certain language while others might take great offense and consider those actions “below the belt.” In some cultures, people naturally touch each other; other people might consider any physical contact inappropriate. Know your boundaries and speak up to let others know what is, and isn’t, okay for you.

  4. Encourage compassionate support both for victims and bullies. When someone you know has been bullied, reach out with compassion and respect. Ask how you can help. Listen with empathy and understanding to their experience. Support the person in seeking and getting assistance needed to get through the situation. Actively help create an environment in which future threats of bullying are eliminated. At the same time, recognize that people who bully may be crying out for attention. At school, support zero tolerance for bullying by insisting that people who bully be counseled, including involving a parent, and separated from others who have been the target of their actions until they recognize their behaviors are unacceptable, accept the consequences, and apologize to those they’ve wronged.

  5. Never keep it a secret; call attention to bullying. While some think they will boost their popularity and low self-esteem by taunting, threatening and abusing others publicly, many bully only when they think they won’t be seen, caught, or prevented from lying about their abusive behaviors. Don’t let them succeed! Whether you’re the target or witness, call attention to bullying and help create a world in which others don’t have to fear emotional or physical abuse at home, school, work or anyplace else. People who are abusive to others need attention so their actions don’t escalate. People who are victims need active, compassionate support within a culture that collectively protects every human being’s right to live, learn, play and work without being bullied.

Impact of PAIRS in Reducing Bullying Behaviors

“The skills have helped me better control my anger.”

~ Kevin, 18

“The information has taught me how to show and control my emotions.”

~ Robin, 17

“PAIRS has give me so many new and positive ways to express my anger.”

~ Jessica, 16

“My experience in PAIRS allowed me to relieve so much stress and pain.”

~ Danyell, 17

“PAIRS has made me aware and of ways in which I have been dirty fighting, I now have the tools to positively release my negative feelings.”

~ Melodie, 33

“The emotional jug allowed me to release so many negative emotions.”

~ Jennifer, 31

Additional Resources:

Jerry Seinfeld’s The Marriage Ref Normalizes Relationship Differences

The Marriage Ref

Tom Papa is the Marriage Ref in Jerry Seinfeld's new comedy on the challenges of love and marriage.

Jerry Seinfeld’s The Marriage Ref premiered on NBC last night with an intimate peak into the lives of two couples navigating the unique challenges of their relationships.

While the particular issues highlighted in this first episode were unusual – a husband wanting to keep his deceased dog’s stuffed body in the family room and another eager to install a stripper’s poll in the bedroom – differences in every human relationship, especially between intimates, are not.

Together with panelists Alec Baldwin, Kelly Ripa, and Seinfeld himself, host Tom Papa navigated the very real issue of relationship differences with lighthearted humor that is too often missing when couples find themselves at odds with each other.

With weekly episodes beginning this Thursday in Jay Leno’s previous 10:00pm time slot, celebrity panelists such as Madonna, Tina Fey, Eva Longoria Parker, and Larry David are sure to bring a valuable message to millions of couples: differences are a normal part of every relationship. Learning to deal with them with humor, empathy, respect and structure is a message that can make a difference for countless marriages.

Ultimately, few couples will bring the challenges of their lives to the show’s panel of comedic commentators and analysts. In the process, however, many more will find new perspective, strategies and opportunities to become their own marriage refs. As those insights help couples reach out to each other with love, levity, empathy and respect, Jerry Seinfeld’s journey through the absurdities and inanities of modern life has the potential to be a brilliant success.