By Brian Feinblum, Chief Marketing Officer
I am proud to say that I have worked on and off with Hal Runkel and his Scream Free Institute for the past decade, helping him to successfully launch ScreamFree Parenting into a New York Times best-seller, and then to promote his sequel, ScreamFree Marriage. The Atlanta-based LMFT founded a non-profit organization to help couples, parents, teachers, and leaders to embrace a scream-free world.
Runkel believes that it takes a combination of clarity and commitment to help us stay cool and find clarity, both in our relationships and within ourselves. As a dad of two and a husband of two decades, he always strives to practice what he preaches while being open to learning more: “What my wife says I do best, along these lines, is ask for feedback, and ask for help.”
“My natural inclination is toward reacting, not responding,” he said, “The therapist in me says that’s probably why I started ScreamFree, to try to heal myself first. And that’s not too far off—I will always be my most important client. In order for me to create and enjoy the relationships I’ve always craved, and help others do the same, I need to continually focus on calming myself down and growing myself up. And it’s a full-time job.”
Read on for his four tips on how to combine logic and emotion to “make a commitment to cool:”
You’re responsible for you. We are never responsible for anyone else and the choices they make (even our kids). We are always, however, responsible to others for the choices we make. Yes, this level of accountability varies with each relationship (I am more responsible to my wife than I am my co-workers), but our choices affect everyone at some level.
That’s why the greatest thing we can do for others is focus more on ourselves—that’s not selfishness, that’s recognizing we owe it to those around us to be more conscious and in control of our thoughts, words, and actions.
Remember the relationship goal. Whenever we get reactive (“screaming”), we don’t just make things worse; we actually end up creating the very outcomes we were hoping to avoid. For instance, if I want my teenager to open up to me, freaking out whenever they complain will only shut them down. Or, if I want my boss to respect and trust me, bitching behind her back will give her no reason to. This principle is true in any moment, in any relationship, and that’s why we base our whole philosophy on committing to stay cool.
You have power over your choices. No one ever gets the problem they want; what we get is almost always a problem we helped create. One of our most self-destructive thoughts is that our struggles have little to do with us, and everything to do with everyone around us—boss, spouse, kids, government, ex, whomever. That outlook prevents us from accurately seeing the truth: so much more of our lives is determined by our own choices than we realize.
This is good news, because if my current situation is largely created by my choices, then simply changing my choices can change my life. And most of our choices are reactions to those around us, not responses. When we commit to staying cool, when we become ScreamFree, we change those reactions (which always backfire) into responses (which have the chance of most authentically representing ourselves). This turns our problems into the best opportunities for life-change.
Take care of yourself. Put on your own oxygen mask first. We’ve all been on the airplane and heard the speech. If we lose cabin pressure, take care of yourself first—‘cause if you’re out of breath, you can’t help anyone else. This is actually amazing life wisdom from the airlines. When we exhaust and exclude ourselves in the name of serving everyone else, we actually don’t end up helping anyone. Basic self care is the basis for true service.