Though he knows he came to the understanding late in life, Paul Zolman realized at age 35 that he was responsible for his own actions. He had residual anger from being abused as a child and he blamed his father even though the man had been dead for 7 years already. His initial approach to solving his problems came from a negative perspective, “I don’t want to be angry” instead of focusing on what he did want. He says double negatives only work in math, not in relationships. He found that focusing on the negative only amplified the problem and his anger ultimately caused the demise of his first marriage.
The author of love is God. In His wisdom, He placed us in a variety of circumstances that require us to find our way back to His pure love. So, what qualifies Paul Zolman to speak about love? His childhood experience is the opposite of love. From an austere beginning, and the distaste it formed inside him, he searched for and eventually created a method that transformed his life from anger to loving everyone. Growing up in a family of abuse, physical touch became his preferred love style, only because of the regularity. He could almost count on it. It was consistent. He came to think that was the way to express love. But deep inside, he knew that was a twisted belief. He wanted a better life for himself, which is why he created a paradigm shift that works. Learn what helped Paul Zolman move from a childhood boot camp of abuse to being a person who loves everyone and can find good about anyone in any circumstance. This is truly the role of love.
Turning 40 and Taking Responsibility for My Actions
In this episode of the Forty Drinks Podcast, Stephanie interviews Paul Zolman, who shares his midlife journey from anger to love. Paul grew up in a household filled with anger and abuse, which led to him carrying that anger into his own adult life. It wasn’t until he reached the age of 35 that he realized he needed to take responsibility for his own actions and stop blaming his father for his social awkwardness and anger issues. Paul tells the story of reporting himself for child abuse and attending anger management classes, which led to him developing a dice with the five love languages to shift his focus from anger to love. Through this transformation, Paul was able to improve his relationships, communicate better with his children, and find forgiveness for his parents. This episode is a powerful exploration of personal growth and the power of choosing love over anger.
Highlights from the episode:
- Paul’s realization at age 35 that he needed to take responsibility for his own actions and stop blaming his father.
- The negative approach Paul initially took to try to overcome his anger, and how he shifted to a more positive and loving mindset.
- Paul’s experiences with destination dating and how he eventually found love through a connection made by his sister.
- The impact of Paul’s anger on his first marriage and the importance of communication and love in relationships.
- The creation of the dice with the five love languages and how it helped Paul shift his focus from anger to love.
If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to rate, follow, and review the Forty Drinks Podcast.
The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
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Stephanie: Hey, Paul, welcome to the 40 drinks podcast.
Paul: Thank you, Stephanie. It's a pleasure to be with you today.
Stephanie: I'm thrilled to have you, you and I have a, slight, co commonality here in that we both come from very large families, right?
Paul: I'm number 10 of 11. Yeah.
Stephanie: My dad was number five of 10 and my mom was number two of six. So yeah, big families all around.
Paul: my father actually was number 15 of 19.
Paul: So that grandfather had, had two wives. The first wife died after the ninth child and, and then, then he moved and, uh, had 10 more children
Stephanie: Wow. Holy cow. They just don't do that much anymore. societally, the families are much smaller these days, but, uh, that is, that's an amazing. I think my mother's grandmother was one of 14. I'm pretty sure there was about 14 of them. So yeah, that's a, that's, that's from another era.
Paul: and, and they needed that kind of workforce on the farm. So,
Stephanie: did. Yeah.
Paul: you create your own.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. Well, let's start today by, why don't you tell me a little bit about how we get to the beginning of our story? I call these your formative adult years.Why don't you set us up for what we're going to talk about?
Paul: Thank you, Stephanie. One of the biggest paradigm shifts in my whole life was the realization for me at age 35 that I'm responsible for my own actions. It took me all the way to age 35. But at age 35, I found myself still blaming my father for social awkwardness. Awkwardness within the family. Because of some residual anger I had left over from bein g abused as a child. And it was just, just severe abuse that just kind of carried, the anger carried over what I found myself doing with even my, my own children, my father did it; I have a brother that's done it, but we'd, we'd be annoyed, we'd be annoyed, we'd be annoyed.
We stack these annoyances on top of one another until we blow. Until we just have, have that flash of anger. And it was just one of those things that, you know, even at age 35, my father had been dead already 7 years. So he's, he's not even around and I'm still blaming him, and I realize how ludicrous that, that is just to even think that I can't talk to him, I can't resolve this, I've got to just take action on my own. And so I started taking some actions, but the action that I took, Stephanie, was just, it was just more of a negative approach as the, the anger culture is mostly negative.
It was a negative approach to trying to set a goal. It was, it was something like, you know, I don't wanna be angry, and it's like a double negative. And only double. Double negatives only work in math where you multiply two negative numbers and you get a positive number. It doesn't work, doesn't work in relationships.
And so, so this anger really kind of, uh, set the stage for the demise of my first marriage. You know, after 23 and a half years, my wife and I parted. I had primary custody of the five remaining children that were still at home. On the weekends that she would have the children, I decided I wanted to do some destination dating. Meaning that I find somebody online, they live in a different city, I live in a different city, we'd find a city, we'd meet, and we'd have a date. And I did that for probably a year and a half, and I went to Daytona Beach, and Jacksonville, Florida, and Atlanta, and Kansas City, New York City, uh, Cabo San Lucas, Salt Lake City, Vegas, Phoenix.
I went to a lot of different places that, that had these little destination dates, but it was like the lyrics of the song that I was looking for love in all the wrong places. And it was just one of those things that it just wasn't happening. I thought I had a line on someone. And so I moved to Phoenix. And then, then that didn't work out. So my sister, my older sister called me. And I'm, remember I'm number 10 of 11. You have to do what your, older siblings say to do. Like when I was growing up, I remember I was the remote control. If they wanted to change the channel, they told me to go up to the TV. And turn it to the channel that they wanted to watch.
My sister calls and she says, Since I have a neighbor that, kind of has the same disposition as you, I think it'd be a good match. My sister was living seven hours away from where I was living at the time. I said, yeah, you know, I'm done with this destination dating. I just don't want to don't want to do it. And so with with that, I said, nah. And she said, Oh, come on. And like I said, you got to do what big sister says. So I said, Oh, okay. I'll email her. What kind of relationship can you develop in the email? Probably not much. So, so I was just not expecting too much.
And then I found out she's, this lady was a really good writer and was very interesting. And after we had a few exchanges, I wrote an email to her and said, well, how many times have you been married? And it's kind of one of those questions you want to be a little tentative about it and just use the kid gloves.
And so she writes back and says, Counting the five that are buried in the backyard? And she asked this, it was a hilarious question. I said, I've got a live one here. I've got somebody who's got some personality. Somebody's got a sense of humor in this. I thought, well, this might be a little bit interesting to pursue this a little farther.
So we did pursue it a little farther. I started making trips up to where my sister was. I'd leave on Friday at five, arrive at midnight, leave Sunday at five, and come back to town. And it was just that kind of a weekend, just go, go, go the whole time. And it was really fun. And so I decided I was going to move up to be closer and just see if I can't pursue this a little farther.
We did get serious, and now it's time for big brother approval. So I take this, take this woman up to my my brother's house, uh, 300 miles north of where I live. And, and, the first thing that happens, my sister in law pulls her aside, and says, The only emotion that the Zolman family learned growing up was anger. At first I denied it, I said, Uh uh! Then it made me mad! I thought, ah, she nailed it. And I, and I, I was busted and I thought if there's any opportunity for me to change that perception of the Zolman family, something that may have been passed on for generations and generations. I know my grandfather had the issues, my, uh, my father now, and I had the issues. If there's something that generationally I could change, now was the time to change it.
Stephanie: Yeah, yeah.
Before we go on, it does sound like it's a generational thing. your grandfather had a very big family. Your dad was from a big family and you were in a big family. what kind of stuff did you guys experience as kidsThat left you with that anger.
Paul: One thing my dad did, he's a truck driver, and he was gone through the week. On Friday, he'd come home and then he would date my mother. I don't ever remember him missing a date with my mother on Friday night, which is really something that I really highly value of my father.
Um, But it wasn't very creative. The date was always at the Maverick bar. Always over alcohol. And I can just imagine I was never there. But I can imagine my mother saying, well, how was your week? How was your week? And as couples do when they get back together and my mother starting, maybe at the oldest child and saying, well, this, he did this and just going down.
Stephanie: the reports. Yeah.
Paul: Making the report, and while, while she's doing, doing the countdown there, my dad's getting annoyed. He's getting annoyed. Each child, he's getting annoyed, annoyed, annoyed, annoyed. I'm a number 10, and I'm, I'm ready. I'm, now he's ready to blow. He's ready, ready to have that flash of anger, and so, so I felt like I got a brunt of a lot of those type of things because of the annoyances that were before me, and and, and I'd either get the belt or it'd be a severe spanking. So, uh, one spanking I remember was so severe that it was black and blue for three weeks. I mean, it was just, it was just that severe. It was more of a beating than anything else. And, and, you know, I wanted to escape that type of living. Um, I moved out when I was 17.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. You said to me the first time we spoke, you said, sometimes all you can do is grow up and move out.
Stephanie: Just endure and bide your time until you can get out.
Paul: So it was after my junior year of high school, so I finished my senior year kind of on the road. I moved in with my brother, and after six months of being with him, he got transferred down to California.
Stephanie: So you got married young. You were about 23 when you got married and tell me how you came to the understanding at 35 that. You were still blaming your dad.
Paul: Actually, it was something that, that just, I was reading my scriptures, and just came across something that just was one of those scriptures about, you know, responsibility and, and taking responsibility for your own actions. And it just struck me at that point in time that I really needed to be responsible for, for my own actions. And then realized my father's, he's not not even here to defend himself that I really, really needed to, you know, step up and take that responsibility
Stephanie: Yeah. So what did that look like? What, what, what did that look like when you were, you said you started with the double negative. I don't want to be angry anymore. Don't an angry. So how was that experience of trying not to be angry?
Paul: Well, it seems like, to me, you know, I, I like to compare it to a magnifying glass. That whatever you magnify is going to get larger. And so what I found what I was doing, Stephanie, is focusing on the problem. Actually, the problem got bigger. In fact, one, one time I was, um, we were reading scriptures as a family.
I was probably in early forties, um, reading scriptures with the family. And my three year old son flipped my wife's glasses off and and just was just being really rambunctious. And, and, um, I just reached over and slapped him. And it just, it was just such a horrible situation. I felt that anger from my father and things, things about that just come back.
And it was an open hand slap, but it was a slap. And it was just something I felt so bad about that, uh, on my way to work, I've commuted 40 miles one way to, to work, on my way to work. Um, I called, called and reported myself that I'd just slapped my child. Nobody was, uh, Department of Family Services. And nobody was there, so I left a message on the answering machine. Well, I get to work and then, and, uh, I'm working and then my wife calls all, she was very distressed, crying, she said that the, they came to the house, they examined the child and everything and, and she said I could not come home because they were going to charge me with child abuse. And so, so I come back home from work at the end of the day and It's only a town of 2, 500 people. So police chief wants to give me a ride in his car and while I'm riding in his car, he reads me, reads me my rights that I'm under arrest.
Stephanie: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I got to back up a couple of steps. Hold on. tell me about the police chief. Did he lure you into his car under false pretenses?
Paul: Well, he said that there was a complaint. And so the Department of Family Services apparently had called the police and filed that complaint. And so, I've lived in the town for several years at that point in time, and so I knew the police chief, you know, everybody in a town of 2500 people and everybody, everybody knows it's like a fishbowl.
Everybody sees what you're doing. And so. So I knew him, so I didn't think anything of it, and then he just read me my rights while we're riding around town and takes me back and fingerprints me and kind of just books me and then says I can't go home so I go stay at a friend's house until, until it gets, kind of settles down a little bit. And you have to get an attorney and so, you know, What they charged me was, was, was child abuse, and it, um, uh, you know, I, I hit the child. I mean, I slapped the child. So I pled guilty to that, and because I pled guilty they gave me 18 months probation, and, and said I had to go to an anger management class.
Stephanie: Let's go back a little bit. I just want to slow down here a little bit. Do you remember when you made the call on your way to work? What did you say when you, you had to leave a voicemail? Do you, do you remember that at all?
Paul: Yeah, I do, I do remember that. And I said that I, that I basically lost it, and I slapped my child, and I wanted some help to overcome anger. It was just that simple. That was it.
Stephanie: Okay. So you, you, when you left the message, you, you had already been for several years, knowing that there was issues with anger and knowing that you were trying to take responsibility for those issues. So this was really the culmination of you taking responsibility. Is that right?
Paul: That's right. And so I, I wanted the help, whatever help. And, and it really was a call for help. I didn't know who, who else to call for help. But I'd been on the, the Nebraska Panhandle. Community Association Board. And I knew that that type of help was available. So this is the agency I thought that was appropriate to call. Obviously it was not, so the help that they gave was to arrest me and just make it a big deal.
Stephanie: Wow. Wow. Um, so you, you got arrested. You said you were sentenced to 18 months probation and a year of anger management classes. Um, were you allowed to go home at that point?
Paul: Um, I was only away from home for, for just one day.
Stephanie: Oh, okay. Okay.
Paul: So I was able, yeah, I was able to go back into the home.
Stephanie: So what are you telling your children at this point? Is there, is there, is this something that's just sort of between you and your wife? This is adult stuff? Or do, do kids in the house know what's going on?
Paul: Well, they kind of do because the Department of Social Services actually went to the schools and interviewed the children about the whole incident. So all the children were pulled out of the classroom and they were grilled and I don't know how, I know it was traumatic for at least a couple of them, probably all of them, had some trauma for being called out of the classroom, being interviewed by someone they didn't know about an incident that happened at home and, uh. Yeah, it was just traumatic for everybody.
Stephanie: Yeah. Okay, so you're home, and you've been sentenced to this class, so you're compelled to be there. Who else is in the class?
Paul: There's a lot of people that are, uh, did not volunteer like I volunteered. I mean, I did not voluntarily turn themselves in, but got caught. So one of the people I remember exactly that one of them got caught is he was holding his wife up by her neck, just like this, up against the wall, her feet off the ground, until she passed out.
That was one guy, and the other guy had beat his girlfriend so badly that she was in the hospital. They got caught, and therefore they were in that class. So those are the guys I was with. I mean, and from slapping my child to being with those kind of guys, I mean, it was, it was interesting.
But I, I focused on the principle, Stephanie, of what they were teaching there. They had this, a wheel of abuse, that there were probably 13 or maybe 14 different types of different categories of abuse and then subcategories in each one of 'em. And I've realized that probably I had learned, from my childhood, probably six or so different types of abuse, the economic abuse, pet abuse. I mean, just different types of abuse that I had learned through my childhood that was passed down from my parents.
Stephanie: Can you tell me, do you remember which of the six types really resonated with you?
Paul: Well, obviously the physical abuse was definitely one that I was guilty of at the time. The other things that I had done in my life were probably pet abuse, economic abuse, withholding economic support. I don't remember the others, but more, more the physical abuse was, was the biggest deal.
Stephanie: Yeah. And, and so at this point, you're, you're in your early forties right now. You,
Paul: I am.
Stephanie: Yeah, yeah. so it must have been interesting or eyeopening or maybe even stunning to learn all these different types of abuse and to really resonate with, with a handful of them. What, what was that like?
Paul: Well, for me, Stephanie, it was, I thought it was very interesting because in my mind, what I was thinking of, well, if that's abuse, what's the opposite of that? And I started thinking, well, what's the spectrum? Where am I, am I really on that angry side of the spectrum? And what would be on the other side of the spectrum.
And I just really kind of at the time determined that love would be on the other side of the spectrum, especially since, uh, since my sister in law, as I mentioned, my sister in law really identified our family with that angry culture, angry humor, angry words, just put downs, uh, just shaming one another.
Those kind of things happen on the angry end of the spectrum. I needed to learn the love languages. And so, so the love languages really resonated with me because Dr. Chapman's a reverend, a pastor, and he said within that first part of the love languages that those love languages reconcile with the life of Jesus Christ.
I really needed to be a lot better person, and I wanted to be a lot better person.
One thing that happened, though, that when you find out where you are on that spectrum, Stephanie, I realized that you have three choices.
You can stay, stay the same, stay right where you're at by blaming someone else. Well, it's their problem. Go have them fix their problem. You don't have to make a, make a change at all. And that's really a bad excuse for not making any changes in your life, to blame someone else. You don't have to do anything about anything.
The second choice was to become more angry. Didn't want to do that. Or the third choice would become more loving. And, and so that's the choice I made. Just, I wanted to learn the love languages. I wanted to learn the love humor. I wanted to learn the, just the kind, kind way to treat people rather than, rather than the angry way that I was trained in as a child.
Stephanie: Mm. So can you give me some other examples of when you're trained in anger, what's the culture like? Tell me a little bit about, you know, certainly not in the abusive moments. We've talked about that, but what are the rest of the hours of the day or the rest of the days of the week flavored with or, or, or covered with, in an angry environment.
Paul: That's a really good, good question. And it actually brings up one more, one more of those abuse, uh, things, the verbal abuse, obviously. And I think that that's, that would be one of those daily things that would, that would happen. It's almost a constant thing that you're doing the put downs, you're doing the insults to try to elevate yourself.
And it really doesn't work that way. I mean, just if you have to put somebody down to raise yourself, if you're in a bad, really bad situation, um, and so, so that was one of the things. I think that, um, uh, again, it was just the, the focus on what's wrong with that person and just make turning the focus on other people and what's wrong with them, and I realized that by doing that, I would, I would be annoyed at what they're doing, something I had no control over. But I'm annoyed at what they're doing, and then I'm getting annoyed, I'm getting annoyed, I'm getting annoyed, and then it's flashing. And when I realized that, I realized that I need to change that whole paradigm there and start focusing on, well, what's right with that person? What can I love about that person?
And when, and I just created a tool that helped me with that. Well, with the five love languages, I had contacted Dr. Gary Chapman and asked him if he was licensing those little icons or the pictures of the different love languages. And his attorney wrote me back and said, no, we're not doing that at this time.
So I still had this idea. And I had a friend that was an attorney, actually an intellectual property attorney, copyright attorney. And so I took up the idea to him and said, I said, I liked games when I was a kid. Can I make this a game? I said, I told him the idea, and he said, you can do that because theory, like the love language theory, is not copyrightable, but application is. So the application that Dr. Chapman was doingwasn't something that I was going to do, and he didn't have it as a game. So I just made it a game. And put, made my own little icons and put the icons on there.
Stephanie: so this is a dice.
Paul: yeah. A dice or a cube. Whatever you want to call it. Last, the sixth side I, I created is Surprise Me.
Paul: So there, Stephanie, there's just two instructions. You roll the die every day. That's the love language of practice, giving away all day that day.
So what that, what that focus did for me, or what that intention did for me, is provide me that avenue so that I could have that paradigm shift of change from what's wrong with people to what's right with people and how to love them.
And just send it out without any expectation of it ever coming back, just getting in that practice. And that, that behavioral change was something that replaced the other behavior I had that I wanted to get rid of. So more than even a negative statement, I don't want to be angry. It became actually a behavioral change that this is what I'm going to do instead.
Stephanie: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. I want to go back and ask another question, but let's just start right here. What was the impact on your household when you started using your dice and, and practicing this loving behavior?
Paul: I think there's several impacts that it had. One is that I became more cognizant of love coming my way. After rolling the die and giving the love away for about 30 days, I understood, the love languages backwards and forwards, all five love languages. So Dr. Chapman suggests that, that, that your primary love language is what most people will give away in hopes of reciprocity, and I realize that well, I'm giving them all away, and that, that improved my vision so that I could see it when it comes my way. That really improved the communication within the family structure. Each child is a little bit different, and, and just the communication that way, understand and say, well, it's not my primary love language, but I can see they're loving on me.
They're sending love my way, and I can respond appropriately to that. I think that that communication really is what, what is a bond for, for most people, that if you can get to that point of understanding, the family relations, any relationship, is going to be a whole lot better. So that's probably the biggest thing that happened.
My wife doesn't roll the die, Stephanie. But what she does like to do is guess what I've rolled that day. From what, from what I'm doing. And so it's a game for her as well, but in just a little different twist of it.
Stephanie: Yeah. I wanna go backwards a little bit. Before the die and, and even before, um, your, your self reporting, you talked a little bit about the culture that you grew up in, the culture of anger, the culture of abuse, previous to the incident with your, with your three-year-old. Do you think that, that a similar culture existed in your home, a culture of anger and a culture of abuse.
Paul: Oh, earlier than that? No, I think that for the most part, everybody that I know, all the children that I know, as a child, they want to be better than their parents. And I really believe that there wasn't ever a time that I used a belt. There wasn't ever a time that I, that someone was spanked so severely that they had bruises on them. No, no bruising at all of any of the children. And it was more of a disciplinary corporal type punishment, but more disciplinary in that part, rather than, something that, that was just fearful because you just didn't know when, when the guy's going to stop. And, you know, in that case, my father obviously did not stop for a very long time because of the black and blue, but it was just, uh, it was more of a tempered approach to that.
It still was corporal and it was still, still had issues that way, but it was, um, it was a lot softer. And my children, now they all have their own families. They're a whole lot softer. Um, generationally, just a funny antidote, you know, my grandfather had 19 children, my father had 11, I had eight. My kids are only having three. I don't understand this, Stephanie. I want more, I want more grandchildren. And so,
Stephanie: Well, at least you've got eight, eight times three
Paul: Well, yeah, so
Stephanie: yeah, yeah.That's sort of the, like you said, the generational evolution of, of, of smaller families. Um, we've, we've seen it in our families as well. I don't think, my brothers and, and any of my cousins, I don't think anybody's got more than three.
You know, a lot of have two. So yeah, it's, it's interesting. The, the, the smaller families. And of course I, I never had children. So, uh, I'm, I'm not, uh, adding to the, to the, to the numbers there.
Paul: My philosophy about that, Stephanie, was that if you can juggle three, you, you can juggle 10. I mean, because the older ones, the older ones will help. And I, obviously the kids haven't taken that to heart. They could have figured that out
Paul: Three becomes overwhelming. And, uh, well, you know, the older, older they get, the better they help, help with, um, with the raising of their younger siblings.
Stephanie: it really is a different world today, though, than it was a generation or two generations ago and all the responsibilities and the fact that, almost everybody has to work. So, you know, there aren't, there's not as much time spent at home. I know my mom stayed home until my youngest brother was, was in school, um, and, my grandmothers didn't work when they had children. But now most of us, in two parent families, most of us have to work. It's, it's really a luxury to be able to stay home with the kids. So it, it, it makes, I think it, there are societal and cultural issues that make it difficult to have the bigger families, uh, whether we want them or, or not.
Well, I'm, I'm really, heartened to hear that, that you were conscious enough of the environment you grew up in and knowing that you wanted to do something different so that you softened your approach and the culture your kids grew up in was not as damaging as the culture you grew up in, even though you ultimately ended up having a reckoning and having to shift your behaviors.
Paul: I absolutely felt the need to protect them, Stephanie, as any parent would, and to protect them from the harshness of, of what I grew up with. I did not want them to have that in their life.
Stephanie: Yeah. You mentioned the last time we spoke, um, sarcasm, played a big part in, I think, in your family growing up. You were talking about the difference, again, on these spectrums. Sarcasm was, was a tool that I think you had said you used quite a bit.
Paul: Well, I have, in the past. If you understood that sarcasm was an abusive, something abusive, you probably wouldn't choose to do it. But on the spectrum, from anger to love, on that particular spectrum, sarcasm is kind of on the angry side.
When you, when you think of what the opposite might be, you're going to talk about something that's authentic, something that's genuine, something that is true or rings true to you. And when you look at it in that perspective, I think that most people would gravitate to want to be more authentic rather than sarcastic. Most people will want to be true to, to true principles rather than to make fun or have that sarcastic comment about it.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. So, how long have you been using this, uh, this wooden die with the love languages on it?
Paul: It's actually more of a ceramic kind of a, kind of a plastic, uh, die right now. The first prototype actually was, was wooden. It was big and it was, uh, clunky and it wouldn't roll very well because I, I, when I, when I cut it, it had the sharp edges and that will catch an edge. And then there's just. It would almost be like a weighted die that you'd want to have in your favor down in Vegas.
And it just became that way and it just did not work very well. So yeah, these are just one inch, about approximately one inch by one inch.And so, with that, Stephanie, just a little back story here, with that, I took that to a mental health professional, thinking that they would want to integrate that into the mental health advising that they were doing.
And this mental health professional said that, That really needs a manual. It needs a book to be written with it. So that's, that's when I wrote, wrote the book called The Role of Love. So, as far as the mental health profession, this is something that, that is working well for that. The book was only published this year. So.
Paul: There's an opportunity to record what you rolled, what opportunities you saw to love in that way, and what you did about those opportunities.
Great, great way to, to make it a love journal. I re, uh, as I've been journaling throughout my life, if I look at, if I'm looking at a blank page, it's almost like my mind goes blank. This is, has the prompts on it, so what, what did you roll, what opportunities you see, the love in that way that day, and then what you do about those opportunities.
I would have loved to have something like that from my mother, my grandmother. I got a journal, Stephanie, about the weather. The weather 60 years ago. Who cares about what the weather was like 60 years ago.
Stephanie: Well, I suppose if you're a farmer, maybe, I don't know. , Did you just tell me that you have been, you like, have liked to journal throughout your life? Is that something you just said? I can't,
Paul: So I have journaled throughout my life, but my, my journaling has been more in the form of, of the snail mail type letters. Um, you know, I, I went to Japan for a couple of years. And while I was in Japan, I thought, you know, I need to somehow honor my parents. And the idea came to me that I can honor my parents by writing them a letter every week.
So once a week, I did that. After I was done with that two year of time in Japan, I realized this is a good habit. Do I want to keep it or do I want to let it go? And most people, you know, in their right mind would think if you've developed a good habit, it's probably best to keep that. So I kept writing my mother and my father for You know, 32 years until they're both were gone.
So 32 years of letters, probably 1500 letters that they gave back to me now. So that is my journal of what went on during that time. So that's more, more of the way I've journaled. I have done the other other way, looking at the blank page, trying to figure out what I did that day. And I've done it that way. But letter writing has been mostly my journal writing for throughout the years.
Stephanie: I'm very interested in that. Uh, what do you think about when you look back at those letters? Are they pedestrian sort of, this is what happens today, or are they deep and thoughtful about your feelings and reflections? I'm curious what you've learned about yourself looking back at the letters you wrote.
Paul: Very good question, Stephanie. Hardly ever pedestrian. It's almost mostly my thoughts but several times there's, there's a gratitude, uh, paragraph or two. I was trying to get to the point where there was forgiveness.
And when you're looking for forgiveness, it's kind of the opposite of what, what I learned for anger, where you stack, stack, stack, stack, and then you have this anger fit. It's opposite of that, that you're stacking kindness, on top of kindness, on top of kindness, on top of kindness to get to the higher laws of love.
You want to get to that point of compassion. You want to get to the point of, of, of charity. You want to get to the point of sympathy or empathy or mercy or forgiveness. And I, I wanted to forgive my parents. And so as I'm trying to remember the good things about my parents and focus on those and blow them up a little bit, that's when the gratitude paragraphs came in into the letter writing.
I really think it refined me quite a bit in that time period to change my attitude a lot about how I grew up.It was early, early on, but it just helped me get to the point that I could stop, stop blaming them for for all the things that went wrong.
Stephanie: Did you know consciously that you wanted to forgive them when you started writing the letters? Here's the reason I ask, often. I, I have said, I'm not particularly introspective or self reflective. And so a lot of times I can only see things in the rear view and make sense of them, but they were not conscious choices. They were, walking my own path or. Or however you want to describe it, a lot of it was bumbling in the dark. But, but did you, when you were writing letters to your parents, did you know you were trying to forgive them?
Paul: Um, no, not at first. Yeah, at first it was almost a sense of duty.And I think that even any, a lot of relationships start like that, that maybe it's a friend or, or you got married and now what? And then you have this sense of duty that, Oh, well, that's, that's my significant other. I've got to be really a lot kinder to that person than any other person. And so it becomes, it starts as the sense of duty. And then it evolved into sense, I want to do this and I want I want a better relationship. I want to have a relationship just just because I felt like there was a lot of holes in my life that I wanted. Is there any way that we can fill these holes patch patch this up? Let's make it a better road so that we can have those that communication just have a smoother transition in that way.
Stephanie: How old were you when you were in Japan when you started writing your letters?
Paul: Um, I was 19 to 20 to 21,
Stephanie: you said you wrote the letters for about 30 years.
Paul: 32 years correct,
Stephanie: 32 years. So really, all the way through your early adulthood, through this transitionary period, and straight through to the other side of it.
Paul: right? And so within the letters, you'll see that transition as well.
Stephanie: And how do you see that in the letters?
Paul: It was, more of a, what am I doing type of thing and then it became more thoughtful and, just, just more of a reflection on the things that happened during the during childhood. There was really I'm not really the confrontational type of person that to get in your face that way.
So face to face wasn't didn't really work to have these conversations with my my parents. So I would gently try to approach things, one at a time. Just as I felt it, or as it came up, approach it one at a time through the letters and then try to have some resolution. They hardly ever wrote me back, maybe once a month, but it was still the whole act of writing.
I felt like there, I don't know any other way to honor my father and mother other than that way. And I wanted to keep that fifth commandment of the Ten Commandments. Just keep that commandment and, and just try to see what could I do? How could I do that? Even though I'm an adult now, I'm 19, 19 years old, 20 years old. I'm an adult. What, what can I do now to honor my parents for what they've done for me?
Stephanie: What did you write to your mother during this period where you had, um, lost your temper and, and, uh, hit your son and, you know, reported yourself to social services? Did you tell her about any of that in the letters?
Paul: Yeah, I did. That's a great question. I did tell her about that and, and I think that possibly she may have felt some culpability there because there was a cost for that class and I had to pay every week. I had to attend every single week and I had to do the travel. So I had to travel that 40, 40 miles, um, it was close to where I worked.
So it was 40 miles away to the class. And then I had to pay to be at the class and it was always an evening class. So she decided that she would, she was going to pay for the whole anger management course, which was, I thought that's nice, but I mean, I could have probably handled it, but it was just, I thought that was just kind of a, uh, maybe it was something that she felt that she instilled in us that, uh, that she wanted to helpget that anger out as well. And I thought that was really a nice gesture that she, she made. And it only became, only came because of that sharing. I think that if, I think that had I not had that relationship, it's possible I would not have shared it.
Stephanie: Yeah. Did you share that, that episode with any of your siblings?
Paul: Not so much. I never did develop the relationship that I have had with my mother before she passed away. Never did develop that level of relationship with my siblings at all. I mean, I see them once in a while and it's just, you know, how you doing? I mean, it was just, it's more, more, um, really light surface y, how you doing, than anything else.
Stephanie: hmm. Yeah. The only reason I wondered is because you, you know, you guys all came from the same place. So I guess I was wondering, you know, were there other, um, incidents among your siblings and their own families that mirror either something like the incident you had with your son or, or your journey of healing?
Paul: Yeah, there were, there were things like that, maybe they had, I don't know, I don't even know, I don't even remember. I do remember, though, that when I was about 10 years old, you know, instead of crying when my father spanked me, I started laughing. And, and it just, I got to that point that it just kind of turned a switch for me.
Paul: I was like, is that the best you can do? And unfortunately, it, you know, it, it kind of stung him a little bit and, but it, but it shocked him to the point that he never, he never did it again. Never did it again.
Stephanie: oh, I would have, I would have guessed that it was the opposite and it made it worse.
Paul: it absolutely, absolutely, it was the right thing to say. You know, I did not say is that all you got, but I just, just the laughing, laughing about that and that's my thought process is, is that the best you've got? Or it, just that alone was enough to make him stop. He didn't do it anymore.
Stephanie: Wow. Wow. It sounds like a very difficult, um, situation to grow up in. And, I'm really touched by you sharing all of that. It's, it's very, very personal and very, uh, very intense actually. So I thank you for, for all of that. And I'm, I'm so impressed with your journey from anger to love.
Paul: It's, it's definitely, uh, love is a better choice. I can tell you from, from knowing the whole spectrum now, Stephanie, I can tell you love's, love's a whole lot better choice.
Stephanie: yeah, yeah. It sounds like you've, uh, you've probably stood at every point along the spectrum, right? From all the way in anger, and then your journey backwards. It's, it's not a seesaw, right? So you, you have to make your way, make your way across that spectrum. And, um. that's a, that's a beautiful journey and, and I love that it's, it was a conscious choice I'm so interested in and impressed at your, the tool you used for yourself to get there, this, this, this dice to say, you know, I think when we first spoke, you said the, the book was, Um, revelatory for you, but you found it difficult to put into practice.
Paul: The first book, uh, Garry Chapman's Five Love Languages, right? Right, I really did. And I think that the die creation really was for myself, Stephanie. It was really for my own. But it worked so well, and it was almost immediate. Like, I was so focused on loving that I forgot all about being annoyed. I realized that, well, this is my lane anyway, this is who I want to be. I don't want to be that other person that tries to get in somebody else's lane, tries to make choices for another person, when it's not even my call.
Paul: part of the anger, that's part of the anger culture. Is that they think that they have control over other people. Control is another one of those abuse type things that I didn't mention, but now I recall it. That, that type of control is not in, in my cards. It's not something that I, I should be doing. And it's, and once I realized that's, that's out of the realm. focus on and magnify what you're going to do. I chose to love. So here we are.
Stephanie: I love it. I love it. Paul, thank you so much, uh, for, for sitting down with me today and for, for joining me on the podcast. This has been a a great, uh, conversation. You know, I'm feeling it in my chest. It was a little harrowing talking about your, your childhood, but I'm, I'm just so, um, I feel so light as well knowing where you ended up in the, the journey that you went through. So thank you so much for being so generous with your story.
Paul: Thank you, Stephanie, for the opportunity. It's a pleasure being with you.