What on Earth Do You Think
You Are Doing?
by Lynn Seiser, Ph.D.
"What on earth do you think you are doing. You are grounded young man!" I used to hear this a lot when I was a child. My parents had learned that making me sit and think about what I was doing was a very effective way to discipline. I would always rather take something that was over in a few minutes. Besides, then I could be mad at them. To stay away from all the fun I was having was the worst form of punishment. What were they trying to prove by having me figure out what I was doing? Besides, I knew what I was doing. I was having fun. Therefore, it was somewhat confusing. I was not aware of it then. Only later did I figure it out.
Being grounded was not a lot of fun. There was a pay off. As long as I could not go anywhere, then neither could my parents. Somehow, it just did not seem to bother them. So what do you do when you are grounded? I could not do the things I normally would do. I could not go the place I normally would go. I had to stay home. At first, it was always boring. Then I would discover things that I forgot I had. Sometimes I would play a game with my parents or my brother. We would actually enjoy each other. Every so often I would ask if I could go out and play, just testing to see if they had forgotten. They had not. My parents were good people at keeping their word to me. Grounded meant grounded. I had to stop doing what I normally did. I just was not aware of the wisdom of that. Only later did I figure it out.
In school, it was different. There you are not grounded, you are suspended. What did that mean? It meant the same thing, stop doing what I normally did. It was where my friends were, so I wanted to go. In school, I found there were other meanings for the word ground. I learned that ground meant the actual soil the earth was made of. It is that stuff we do not like to get on our clothes. It is the stuff we can go forever without ever touching. We grow food in it. It sustains us. The plants that grow give off oxygen so we can breathe. The ground takes good care of us. I never heard the ground ask what does it think it is doing. It is just doing it. I never would have been aware of how much the ground we pave over and wash away gives us. I was one of the lucky ones. There were a few moments when I stopped doing what I normally did and became aware of something a whole lot bigger than me. I was not aware of all the earth did then. Only later did I figure it out.
Beneath the floor we stand on is the earth. The ground sustains us and supports us. In school, I also learned that ground is the word used for the basis of our beliefs, decisions, and actions. I once heard an expression, that if you do not stand for something you will fall for anything. So what do I stand for? What are my beliefs? On what are those beliefs grounded? I was so busy having fun and being in motion. I never stopped to think about what my beliefs were, let alone what I based them on. I was a child then. I was not aware of what I believed, only thinking about my own fun. Only later did I figure it out.
I also learned that grounded had an electrical meaning. It was about connecting to the earth in a way that the energy was more controllable and safe. All I was aware of was that lack of grounding got me shocked. Therefore, grounded energy is a good thing. When I studied body-based psychotherapies, they also used the word grounded in a positive sense. Grounded meant being very solid, "down to earth". Too often, they said, our thoughts and feelings were like balloons without a string. They tend to float away. In the new age, there is a criticism that our heads are so much in the clouds that we are of no earthly good. I have sat in academic lecture halls listening to intellectual theories that I thought had very little chance of finding practical applications. Only later did I figure it out.
So, what did I figure out later? I figured my parents had a good idea. I use it with my own children. I ground them. I make them stop what they are doing and think about the consequences to them and everyone else. As a psychotherapist, I often interrupt destructive patterns and ask my clients if what they are doing is working or going in the direction they want. Usually it is not. People often can justify what they are doing despite the fact that it just is not working. It is easy to give explanations and reasons for why we doing something without being aware that it does not work and is, in fact, detrimental and hurting everyone and everything involved. Therefore, let us all get grounded for a minute. Stop all activity except a slow rhythmic breathing. Quietly ask yourself, "What on this earth am I trying to do?" or, "What am I trying to do on earth?" Silently listen and let yourself become aware of the answer.
Thanks for listening and for sharing the journey. Who is in control of yours? Lynn Seiser, PhD, MFCC, is an internationally respected psychotherapist, consultant, speaker and writer with more than twenty years of direct clinical experience in recovery counseling for offenders and victims of violence, trauma and abuse. He is also known for his work in "holistic" recovery from addictions and his emphasis on "healthy" relationships. He offers 11 web pages at http://members.aol.com/SeiserL/index.html and can be e-mailed at SeiserL@aol.com . To discuss the benefits of his services, to make a referral, or to make an appointment, contact him at 550 Pacific Coast Hwy., #203, Seal Beach, CA 90740 or call (562) 799-1371.
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