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Allan Clarke

Allan Clarke video game addiction

[00:00:00] Allan: And all the kids were going mad playing Fortnite. Like the kid trashed his room? Cause he was playing fortnight for 15 hours and I was kinda like, but the parent let the kid play for 15 hours.

[00:00:14] Miriam: all right, folks.

Video Game Addiction

[00:00:14] I am excited to have Alan Clark with me today. You’re gonna love listening to Alan because he is from ireland. So I know whatever you have to say is gonna be music on our ears. And beyond that he is a mental health professional, and he is you know, dealing with things, all mental health professionals do depression, anxiety, suicide trauma.

[00:00:36] But the thing that I wanna talk about with him today is video game addiction, because I know that this is a huge problem. All across the world. And as a listener, you might be someone with an addiction, or you might be a parent of someone with a video game addiction. So we’re gonna get into that. We’re gonna get into some other things that are equally fascinating. And so with that, I just wanna welcome [00:01:00] you, Alan. What a pleasure.

Time Zones

[00:01:01] Allan: Thank you very much, Miriam really, really appreciate the offer. And thank you so much for asking me to come on. So really looking forward to this, I’ve been excited for it all day, so, absolutely.

[00:01:10] Miriam: Well good. I’m sure it’s probably pretty late on your end. Your day is done.

[00:01:15] Allan: Not, not too bad here. Just after just after 8:00 PM on, on Thursday evening.

[00:01:18] So yeah, I’ve, I’ve done interviews in the states where it’s been online at like one, 1:00 AM. So 8 PM is like, I can do that one.

[00:01:26] Miriam: You are a trooper. I’m a spoiled brat. I don’t do any interviews after seven. I’m like eh, I’m done

[00:01:33] Allan: Worst of all. Worst of all, the host ended up being drunk and he couldn’t put the episode out. I think he got a little bit nervous, a few drinks to calm himself. Went a little bit overboard with it and was obviously retrospectively embarrassed and didn’t put the episode out,

[00:01:47] Miriam: well, we’re gonna use, so you definitely look a lot more sober, so that’s, that’s a good start. Definitely. And it’s at a more reasonable hour in the evening, so, so I’m good to go. It’s all good. Okay.

Intro Allan

[00:01:57] Miriam: Well, why don’t we get into just a teeny little [00:02:00] bit about. You and your, you know, your background, we’ll just kind of go where this conversation takes us.

[00:02:06] Allan: Yeah. So I’m a psychotherapist in private practice in Caler town. Caler town is it’s about 50 minutes from, from Dublin in the Midlands of Ireland. I’m also host of the straight talk and mental health podcast. Former musician slash rapper slash DJ went on then did some acting.

[00:02:21] Got tired with that. And then concentrated on doing my degree. So my degrees in counseling psychotherapy, and then my master’s is in child and adolescent psychotherapy, which is the, which is where the, the dissertation on video game addiction, where, where that came in from.

[00:02:34] Miriam: Yeah. One of the things I’ve found as I’ve begun interviewing people is that every person is so fascinating that I wanna have multiple conversations and to say, oh, I wanted to learn about your acting. And I wanna learn about that and about this, but for today, We’ll just stick with the one thing.

Video Game Addiction

[00:02:51] Miriam: Why don’t you tell us how you got interested in the video game addiction and where your dissertation took you?

[00:02:57] Allan: This was kind of at the height of the fortnight [00:03:00] craze.

[00:03:00] Where, you know, everyone was giving out about Fortnite and all the kids were going mad playing Fortnite. And I was kicking around the idea of what to do my dissertation on. And I was like, well, what’s, what’s the most common presenting issues I work with with teenagers. And it’s like, typically anxiety, maybe bullying, anger and stuff like that.

[00:03:18] But it kind of developed out of, there was a, as there always is around video games, a moral panic. Of the fortnight. And I was like, did you see in the play due today? Like the kid trashed his room? Cause he was playing fortnight for 15 hours and I was kinda like, but the parent let the kid play for 15 hours.

[00:03:40] The kid’s gonna play as long as the kid can play. I I’ve played video games since like the late eighties. And I’ve never had any sort of an issue with video game addiction, but I thought it’d be an interesting and interesting topic then, because it’s something that I’m interested in. I’d still play video games to unwind and relax.

[00:03:56] And as, as most people do as a, as a form of escapism [00:04:00] so that had prompted that had prompted the study that had prompted the research

[00:04:04] The world, well, world health organization come out then and they admitted that there was some political pressure from the likes of China and Korea to kind of include.

Internet Gaming Disorder

[00:04:12] Because it’s, it’s a massive problem. And the key part of it is the internet gaming disorder. So this can apply to phones. This is, you know, phone games and stuff like that. Korea tried years ago, they tried to implement the curfew, but the kids would just take their parents’ ID to log in after midnight and stuff like that.

[00:04:29] So that became a bit of a failure.

[00:04:31] And the problem then again, being is, you know, young, young, you’re talking young teenagers kind of 13 to 16, 17 are most at risk. But the element of that then is which the parents in the equation.

[00:04:47] You know, it’s all well and good to, to throw the kid up into his room and let, let fortnight babysit him for a few hours.

[00:04:55] But the, the parents have to take responsibility as well of going, okay, this, okay, this [00:05:00] is a bit of a problem. And it’s the same as any addiction. What’s what’s the kid escaping from, you know, we, we, we look at alcohol and go, okay, that’s alcohol is your mood modifier of choice. You know, weed is your mood modifier of choice.

Mood Modifier

[00:05:14] Video games are your mood modifier of choice. You know, if you’re stressed, if you’re bored, that’s what you turn to. You’re feeling one way and you, and you want to feel another. So that’s what they turn to.

[00:05:24] And, and the majority of the, the majority of people that would meet the criteria for addiction are those who would play what are called MMO or PPGs so massively Multiplay online role playing games, the likes of world of Warcraft and stuff like this, where, you know, you have whole communities and stuff like that.

[00:05:40] And the reason those people are at risk is because it gives them the life that they don’t really have in the real world.

[00:05:48] They can play with their. There’s a sense of mastery. There’s a sense of autonomy. There’s all the opportunities that really aren’t there. Mm-hmm that they get in the virtual world.[00:06:00]

[00:06:00] Miriam: One of the things that I’ve run into with parents here, you know, they’re like, oh my gosh, get off the computer, get off your phone, go outside and play, do something real with your friends. And the kids are saying legitimately my friends don’t do anything. There is nobody to do anything with offline.

[00:06:17] I have run into this. I have seen this from the parent side. As some of my clients have expressed some of that. I’ve seen it from the kids’ side. I’m a business coach. So I’ve seen it from the employer’s side when these people don’t show up because they’ve been up till three in the morning gaming, and then they can’t get up and go to work.

Addiction Leads to Problems

[00:06:36] And this is not a technical definition, but I have a tendency to say something is an addiction when it starts creating problems in your life.

[00:06:45] Allan: Absolutely.

[00:06:46] Miriam: It’s definitely creating problems, problems between children and parents, between employers, between husbands and wives.

[00:06:53] Mm-hmm . Now I wanted to ask, do you see this Equally among the genders or is it primarily [00:07:00] more with males?

[00:07:01] Allan: I have seen it be primarily more primarily with men.

[00:07:04] Yeah. I think primarily men. And it is, it is primarily a, a kind of male activity. Mm-hmm , I think it’s kind of lend lended itself to that gender.

[00:07:13] But you know, as you described there, I mean, whether it’s weed, whether it’s drugs, whatever, whether it’s alcohol, exactly like that. And I would say to clients, you know, they will. Or the same as anyone coming in, you know? Well, you know, would you diagnose me with depression? Like, well, it’s not my job’s diagnosed with depression.

[00:07:27] I was like, yeah, but you know, do I, do I meet the five of the nine? I said, I’ll just say, don’t worry about that. You tell me, do you feel depressed? . Do okay. You’re depressed. You know, it’s not, well, you know, you’ve only really met four, you know, you need to be five of the nine to be officially depressed.

[00:07:43] At its core element, any addiction is an inability to stop despite the negative consequences on your life. So if it’s causing problems with your boss, if it’s causing problems with your, your wife or your husband, then it’s a problem

[00:07:56] if you can’t stop, then it’s a problem. Yeah.

Being Real Online and Offline

[00:07:59] Miriam: Yeah. [00:08:00] One of the things that I have noticed with things like this is that, and you use the word escapism. I find that young people. Are phobic about feeling awkward and what seems to be interesting to me is things that you could never do in your real life.

[00:08:18] You can do in a video game because there’s this layer of something between you and the other person. And so you can be direct or assertive or aggressive or whatever, you know, with that person in the game. But in real life, you can’t. Go up and make a phone call or, you know, return an item, or you can’t have a human to human interaction.

[00:08:42] I have noticed that people on the autism spectrum struggle more with both of these things, with interacting with people in real life. And with. The video game, escapism space.

[00:08:54] I was just gonna ask if you would comment on that and from your expertise and what you’ve seen, not [00:09:00] only the issue, but what you’ve seen, be helpful.


[00:09:03] Allan: Yeah. But, but again, you know, it’s exactly, as you said there, where, you know, where you can’t make that phone call in, in, in your real life, but you create an avatar.

[00:09:12] You can, you know, you might be a skinny scrawny kid. And your avatar is a muscle man or a, a Centar, or, you know, it could be anything, it could be the opposite gender. You can be who you want to be.

[00:09:26] You you’ve afforded the opportunity to have this whole other world, you know, you can be respected for your skillset, you know, video game, and now is, is, you know, profession.

[00:09:36] You can be a professional gamer. There’s eSports. I was listening to a podcast today with Landon Norris, who is a Formula One driver and he has an eSports. So, this is there’s massive money going into this. So parents are going, you know, what’s ever gonna come from this a lot can come from it. If it’s nurtured in the right way, you know, you can create a career as a video game developer.

[00:09:56] You can become a professional gamer where there’s millions of [00:10:00] dollars in, in prize money.


[00:10:02] And I think where it lends itself to through autism and I some, you know, I was diagnosed myself last year. There is that hyper- focus. You know, and there is that escapism and you know, one of the, one of the core elements of autism is, you know, difficulty developing and maintaining friendships.

[00:10:20] You get to be whoever you want to be online. You don’t have to turn your camera on. You don’t have to speak you, you can be who you want to be, you know, and then all of the, maybe the, the social cues that you may be poor at in the real world. It’s all there as a video game character, there’s so much more to be gained from it.

[00:10:42] Plus, you know, from a, from a, a kind of neuro biological perspective, you know, you’re getting a massive amount of dopamine and, and that gets, that gets overhyped as well ago. Oh, you know, video games or is addictive as crack cocaine. It’s like, no, it’s not like, no, it’s not. And that’s, that’s just the truth.

[00:10:58] Yes. You get a dopamine boost, but you [00:11:00] get a dopamine boost doing anything. You are motivated to do or you achieve a goal or anything like that. Video games are designed that way, you know, and, and video game developers have, have their part to play in that as well. Because you know, you, if, if you are thrown into a game where you can’t get past the first boss, no, one’s gonna wanna play that game.

Opportunity to Grow

[00:11:22] You know, where where’s, where’s the dopamine, where’s the sense of achievement. Where’s, where’s the goal completion in doing that?

[00:11:27] So it’ll give you an easy level to start. This is what you do. Here’s your basic movements. Oh, okay. You develop different skills. You can get armor. You get, do, you can do this.

[00:11:36] You can do that. And each level or each boss as it would’ve been in the old side video. Is an opportunity to, to grow and develop and achieve and keep going.

[00:11:46] Myself. I’ve never really, I’ve never really got into the online gaming side of it, which, you know, and again, the, the hu the biggest part in it is the social side.

[00:11:54] So the people, most likely to be addicted are the ones that will play online with their friends, whether that’s Call of Duty, whether that’s [00:12:00] FIFA, whether that’s or the Warcraft, all of that sort of stuff, because of the social. So we still have that desire to be social. Same as social media. We, we, we forget the key word is social media.

[00:12:12] Yeah. We’re in this effort to connect virtually because that’s what we’re driven to do. We’re we’re social creatures. We have evolved over, you know, hundreds of thousands of years in tribes and we, and we’re still trying to achieve that. Oh, I can’t get it into real world. So let me get it virtually. Yeah.

Create Change

[00:12:33] Miriam: Have you found as a, as a therapist, I have wondered, could you use the video space to model change? Like everything you just listed out, you start with the easy thing, you develop these skills that you move to the next level and I’m thinking, well, my goodness, that’s what I do with my clients.

[00:12:52] You start with where you can start and you build muscles based on that.

[00:12:57] Instead of trying to get kids to stop [00:13:00] gaming. Maybe there’s a way to say, okay, try something that’s scary to you in the game. And then let’s try it in real life and report back to me how that goes.

[00:13:11] Or if this character were stopped in the game this way, what would you do? And they’re gonna say, well, I have superpowers.

[00:13:17] I can do what. And I’m like, well, we have superpowers too, as human beings, and we have to learn how to tap into those. I would just like to hear your thoughts and perspectives on that from a clinical space.

Human Superpowers

[00:13:31] Allan: Yeah. I, I think, you know, particularly, particularly with children of identifying, you know, well, remember the time you couldn’t do this, remember the time you couldn’t get past that level, remember the time you couldn’t complete this and developing that of, you know

[00:13:46] what would such and such a character do? Well, he would, he would do this. He would do that.

[00:13:50] And it’s really about embodying something that, you know, whereas we may not have it to draw from within ourselves. Perhaps we can interject from someone else and, [00:14:00] you know, that’s for kids or whatever maybe, or for, you know, for people in business.

[00:14:03] Well, what would such and such a person who’s one of your role models? Who’s one of, you know, well, can you internalize that of what would he do and what advice would he give? Because very often when we can, when we don’t have that to draw from within ourselves, we do have to take it from an external source.

[00:14:21] Yeah. You know, when, when the, well, when the, you know, there may be no water to draw. You know, sometimes we need to, we need to fill up from, from someone else and internalize and interject who or some of the qualities that that person has.

Try Something

[00:14:35] Yeah. To just go, okay, well, he will probably do this. All right. Well, let’s, let’s, let’s give that a try and it it’s really about, I always encourage people to go look, just, just throw something against the wall.

[00:14:45] See what sticks. Just, just guess just to draw a guess,

[00:14:47] Miriam: try something,

[00:14:49] Allan: treated, treated as treated as an experiment. Yeah. And just look, if it goes wrong, it goes wrong. It’s it’s experiment. It’s this a science. We’re gonna treat it like science. That didn’t work. Okay. What do we need to do? [00:15:00] Right. We need to readjust that.

[00:15:01] That didn’t work that time. Okay. What didn’t work with that? That didn’t work. Okay. Well let’s, let’s try this one. Oh, okay. Right. That worked well. Alright, well, let’s, let’s build upon that and you know, let’s, let’s move forward with that and see, see where that takes us. And it’s, it’s sort of nearly given someone permission to fail.

[00:15:18] Mm-hmm . And I think, I think that’s a huge thing for people permission fail.

[00:15:22] Yeah, I,

Keep Trying

[00:15:23] Miriam: I appreciate that the learning process requires failure. And I often will say to people, you know, if you’re trying to lift weights, you know, can you go out there and bench press 400 pounds. No, so you’re gonna try it and you’re gonna say, oh, I couldn’t do it.

[00:15:42] Mm-hmm no, but I bet you, you could do 50 and then you could add a little more and then you could add a little more and add a little more. And there is this iterative nature to learning and growing that I think many times people are too quick to give up. Well, that didn’t work. Yeah. And I feel like in the gaming space, how many [00:16:00] times did you try to supersede that, win that level, and then you got it and you remember that feeling of mastery.

[00:16:08] Okay. Well, it’s the same thing in your life. If you’re trying to follow through and get to work on time, or you’re trying to not get in an argument with your spouse or, you know, fill in the blank there it’s, it’s try. Test and learn and try and try and try until you get it. Mm-hmm

[00:16:25] so I appreciate you, you know, saying, okay.

[00:16:29] You were just diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder last year. Mm-hmm can you tell or explain to our listeners, what is that like, maybe receiving that diagnosis? And what could have helped you earlier in life? What are you doing to help yourself now? That’s a whole series of questions, but yeah. Yeah.

[00:16:50] They all kind of relate.


[00:16:52] Allan: Yeah. I’ll start, I’ll start with the first one of what it was like when, when I had the diagnosis and I suspected for a couple of years, But it came from [00:17:00] when I was doing my degree. And I remember we were doing like atypical development or something. So we were doing all autism and stuff like that.

[00:17:06] And I remember they had the PowerPoint up in the class and I went and I said, and I said out loud in the class, like that’s me. Wow. And, and the tutor was like, you’ll always find something, you know, I’ll always, you’ll always find something in yourself. But it always kind of stuck me and I started seeing clients and I started relating to a lot of their behaviors.

[00:17:22] And they kind of, the, the final straw for me was it was, it was some account I followed on the podcast to the podcast on the Twitter. And someone had retweeted onto the timeline now some autism specialist. And it was something like, just remember if you’re constantly find yourself going back to the fact.

[00:17:40] That you may be ASD or ADHD, just remember neurotypical people don’t do that. They just know they’re not. Hmm. So that was the kind of final straw of going, okay. I need, I need to, I need to check this out. So I start had the initial assessment had a couple of two, two interviews around that to start with, I remember saying to my partner [00:18:00] at the time that she’s like, how are you feeling?

Skilled Masker

[00:18:02] You know, today’s gonna be today. Like, I’m really anxious. Like I’m really nervous. And she’s like, why. I said, because what if I’m not, you know, what if, what if like the score and criteria is like 50 points and I get like 49 and it’s like, well, you’re definitely not normal, but you’re just not enough to be autistic.

[00:18:22] So when, when I got that and he said, look, yeah, he said what? He said at the time he was like, look, I said, Allen, I’m not gonna lie to you. And he knew from my profession and stuff like that, I said, you’re probably one of the hardest cases I’ve ever worked with. He said, because you are so skilled at masking and covering up and everything you’ve learned through your training and stuff like that.

[00:18:38] And, and he said, well, you know, but you know, you are, and I cried, I just, I just burst into tears.

Being Validated

[00:18:43] It was, it was so of validating, you know, at that point I was, I was 44 years. It was coming up on my birthday. It was nearly 44. And it was like, that’s why life has always been so hard for me. That’s why I could look at my brother, go, how come he was really good at sports?

[00:18:59] How come he’s had all [00:19:00] these friends since childhood? How come, how come this? How come that, how come this? And it just all made sense. Mm-hmm , you know, and, and there was a name for it. Yeah. And all those difficulties. And, you know, and I look back and I, you know, I look back through the lens of autism over every relationship I was in.

[00:19:20] Every job I was. And autistic traits that I was unaware of were there the whole time. Yeah. And I looked at, you know, and it was always, you know, cuz you look back and one of the things was like, I remember when I looked into it originally, it was, you know, well, you know, someone, the stereotypical things, you know, poor eye contact don’t get sarcasm and stuff like that.

[00:19:41] I was like, I get sarcasm, you know, I’m Irish, passive. We passive aggressive today. It looked like if there’s an Olympic sport for sarcasm, Ireland, stake gold, every time like and then eye contact, I was like, you know, I’d be no good at my job. What good will I be in my job? And I know I’m very good at my job.

Eye Contact

[00:19:58] So obviously I have eye contact. But when I [00:20:00] started to becoming aware of it, what I started to notice was, and, you know, people can look back over this video if, if there’s a video of it and you see when you are. I am focused in I’m all about whoever is talking to be when I’m talking.

[00:20:14] I I’m everywhere. I’m looking everywhere else but at, at the person I’m talking to. So you start, I started becoming aware of these sort of things across, geez. I didn’t even realize that’s what I did. And you know, I remember one in particular was saying, you know, any stimming behaviors, so stimming would be, you know, repetitive, you know, you might be rubbing your fingers or your neck, or, you know, any sort of thing.

[00:20:32] I was like, no, no, no, not. And now over the last few months, I was like, I find myself. I was like, I didn’t even, oh, I didn’t even know I did that, but I, but I catch myself on it. Mm-hmm and I, and I look back then of, you know, taking things quite literally. And it’s like, no, I never, never did. But when I look back over every single relationship I’ve been in, I remember arguments in every, in every one of those relationships going, you know, and it’s, and I would say, but, but that’s not what you said.

[00:20:58] It’s like, but that’s not what I. Like, [00:21:00] but that’s not what, what you said was, and they’re like, but that’s not what it meant.


[00:21:03] Well, if that’s not what you menat, why did you say, and it caused the arguments the whole time where I was so pedantic and caught up on the explicit words that they were saying.

[00:21:12] whereas obviously they were talking about the subtext and its like, no, it’s the meaning underneath that? It’s like, well, why didn’t you say that? Mm-hmm you know, and, and you look back and you go, ah, okay, all right. That’s that’s what that was there it is, you know? Yeah. And then jobs, jobs I was in before I was in this profession and even this profession, it suited to me.

From Fixing Watches to Fixing People

[00:21:31] I was like, what are the jobs I studied the longest? What were the jobs I was happiest in before I was to put myself to a college, I used to fix watches. I was in an office on my. Happy out, throw on a podcast, throw on some music. I’m fixing watches. I I’m, I’m faced with a problem and it’s fixed. And autism’s like, I love that.

[00:21:47] That’s brilliant. Look at how watch it wasn’t working now. It is brilliant. So I went from fixing watches to quotation art, “fixing people”, another job. I, I drove forklifts and you know, you were left in the, forklift, you were up and down the aisles. It was like same thing. And the fork [00:22:00] truck left on my own listening to some music, happy days.

[00:22:03] Jobs I didn’t do well where I’m dealing with loads of people. You know, and you’re working with personalities and stuff like that. And that’s how, you know, that’s kind of how I stayed in private practice. The plan was always, I’ll go to private practice. So I’ll get my I’ll fulfill my accreditation hours and then I’ll go into a service, started working for myself, I was like, oh, hang on. This is great. This is just me and one other person at any given time. Yeah. I choose my hours. I choose basically the clients. This is just, this is made for me. so I stuck at it. Made, made a career over. Yeah.


[00:22:39] Miriam: Oh, good for you. I love the things you’re sharing. I understand what you’re talking about. And nobody who works for themselves ever stops working for themselves. If they can make ends meet, like it’s just too good of a gig. Yeah. But I appreciate your vulnerability and the way that you’re sharing these things. I know within my listening [00:23:00] base, people are going, oh, I do that. I do that. I do that.

[00:23:05] It may be that they’re on the spectrum a little bit here or there, or it may not. But the, I think the validating thing that I’m hearing you say, first of all, having some sort of label helped you go, “I’m not crazy. I’m not broken. I’m not deficient. This is a thing.” Mm-hmm, , mm-hmm , this is a thing that people struggle with and I’m okay.

[00:23:25] Okay. Now that I know that it’s a thing. How can I help me? What do I need to do to help me be the best version of me?

[00:23:32] And what a relief to find something that you can do that is nurturing to that part of yourself instead of working against that part of yourself.

[00:23:45] Mm.

Make Your Strengths Superpowers

[00:23:45] One of the business principles that I was reading about at one point was saying, instead of trying to make your weaknesses, like, bring your weaknesses up into strengths, why don’t you make your strengths into superpowers?

[00:23:57] At first as a younger person, I didn’t [00:24:00] necessarily agree with that. I think as I’m getting older, I’m agreeing with it more and more. There are certain things we’re good at. So why don’t we do them and excell and bring that kind of space to humanity versus, you know, our, whatever you wanna call it, our negative 10 space and bringing it up to zero where we still feel like we’re failing with people.

[00:24:22] Yeah. Yeah.

[00:24:23] [00:25:00]

[00:25:02] Miriam: How has this diagnosis helped you with your clients?

Meet People in Their World

[00:25:06] Allan: Well, what I’ve become is I’ve become the autism whisper so I get a lot of clients and they might say something to me and straight away I’m like, oh, Let’s let’s explore now, let’s go down that road.

[00:25:21] So what I’ve become very adept and what I’ve done many, many times since is I’ve had a lot of clients that didn’t know they run the spectrum. Yeah. And. Identified a bit with that. Let’s and I know what the kind of avenues are down and they’ve gone off and they’ve, and they’ve been officially diagnosed and stuff like that.

[00:25:37] You, you get a client that’s on the spectrum, you just ask ’em about their special interest off they go. Yeah. You know, tell me about Thomas The Tank Engine. Tell me about video games. Tell me about Formula One. Tell me about, and they will go off and, you know, and you incorporate that, you know, you, so again, like you say, don’t fight it.


[00:25:54] You, you, you meet them in their world. And, and it’s the exact same thing I say to parents around video games. Play [00:26:00] with your child, meet them in their world. You know, you will find out video games are fun. So everyone’s like, oh, get off them video games, get off this. Or I remember I had one client and she, she was talking about her kids and she’s like, oh yeah, I haven’t really connected with the kids, but what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna go out for, she was, she was trying to lose weight.

[00:26:17] I’m gonna go out for a walk now. And you know, I’m gonna bring my daughter out. I was like, eh, let’s bring your daughter into your world. What does she like to do? She likes to play video games. Why don’t you play video games, especially like, oh, Mario card play Mario Cart. What does your son like? Do he likes to do karaoke?

Get Connected

[00:26:34] Do the karaoke, meet them in their world, same. And particularly with the teenagers, you have to meet them in their world. Just getting them and, you know, self disclosing of going. Yeah, I know what that’s like, I can certainly relate to that.

[00:26:47] Or, you know, have you ever found this kind of thing? Oh yeah. I was like, now we’re. Now you’re understanding me a little bit better and I’m understanding you a little bit better and oh, what have we got now? I’ve got a therapeutic relationship.

[00:26:57] Miriam: What I find happening is parents [00:27:00] freak out and then kids freak out. And the more the kids freak out, there’s like behaviors that are super disagreeable and the parents are kind of throwing up their hands saying, I cannot deal with this child. And then they leave them in front of the video game because at least there’s peace and quiet. It’s not a judgment on the parents. It can be very, very difficult dealing with difficult children.

[00:27:23] But talk about when you have a therapeutic relationship, you’re talking in that sentence about the therapist and the clients. And I know the research about that, but it’s true with parents too. If you can have that attending space- keep talking about what it does for that young person.

Give Yourself Down Time

[00:27:41] Allan: Yeah. I, I give, give you an example, cuz the kid was actually coming in. The parents had brought him in because he was addicted to the iPad and stuff like that. And I met the parent the kid was only 14 and I met this kid. Well, I met the parent first and the father had had a session with the father. Kid was being brought in the following week.

[00:27:59] And [00:28:00] when I heard the knock on the door, I was expecting the spawn of Saten the way the father had described this kid. I opened the door and just the skinny little kid’s head is down.

[00:28:10] I was like, alright. So again, pulling teeth, really, really pulling teeth. So we get into it and, you know, eventually got, I was like, you know what? This, this kid is lovely. This kid, he’s a lovely little kid. Like, you know, I’m talking to him about what he’s playing, but what I established was his day started with school at school.

[00:28:30] He had after study school after school study. So he was in, in school for another two hours after school. So he was in secondary school here, which would be high school. So typically those hours are kind of 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. And then he was in school till 6:00 PM. So he had his regular school till 4:00 PM.

Intense Schedules

[00:28:46] And he had two hours of after school study, which is till 6:00 PM. He came home, he had his dinner and then he had to do another hour or two of study. Yeah. And then the parents are, are given out because he’s up until 1, 2, 3 o’clock in the morning on the iPad. [00:29:00] What other time did he have to himself?

[00:29:03] They were talking about putting him up for foster care and, oh my goodness. I’m like this. And I’m talking to the dad and he’s like, I was like, you know, I gotta be honest with you.

[00:29:12] I was like, this is, that’s not the kid I’m seeing. Like, I was like, yeah, the school principal said that as well. I was like, well, I’m getting a different kid. School principal is getting a different kid. There’s obviously this dynamic you, you know, you’re putting all this pressure on him. Of course you’d want to escape.

[00:29:29] If he was an adult, he’d probably be an alcoholic. Mm-hmm , he’s working, you know, 12 hours a day. We’ll. And if you know, what he doesn’t have is he doesn’t have access to a glass of wine or a bottle of wine in the evening. What he does have a video game console, and he does have an iPad. He, he needs downtime.

[00:29:47] He, but that needs to be structured. He’s got enough going on, like the kiddo’s 14. Don’t be putting all this pressure on him because he’s going to, he’s going to crack and he cracked. [00:30:00] And parents that are in that situation of fighting against it is only gonna cause arguments.

Strict Boundaries

[00:30:06] So it needs to be set out in, in sort of strict boundaries of, okay, this is the time you’ve got two hours of time, that’s it? And yes, you’re gonna get a bit of kickback. There’s gonna be a bit of kickback at the start, but you gotta hold that boundary. And, and I said, I need, I need a parents that come in of, you know, you’re dealing with a teenager, it’s their job to test boundaries.

[00:30:27] You know, essentially what you’re getting with a teenager is you’re getting a, a toddler that’s going through the terrible twos. Yeah. It’s the same thing, except they’ve got a bigger body. Now they can leave the house. Now they can reach the door handle when they want to run away. Yeah. And, and that’s essentially what you’re getting.

[00:30:41] And they’re testing the boundaries and they say, they’re gonna test the boundaries and it’s your job as a parent to hold that boundary and let them know this is what’s happening.

[00:30:49] So, or, you know, jump in, play the video game with the kids. Like, you know what? We can have an hour, I’ll jump on with you. What you wanna play? You wanna play that? Alright, cool. I’m not very good at it, but I’m, I’m willing to learn, you know, and, and [00:31:00] meeting them in that word, but holding in that boundary of, alright, we got, you know, half an hour, 30 minutes.

Boundaries are a Muscle

[00:31:05] Alright. 15 minutes, you know, five more minutes. Okay. Time to go on now or, you know what parents will say? Oh, just pause it, turn it off. And it’s like, I’m in an online game. I can’t turn it off. I can’t pause it. Understand that go. Okay. What the game is probably gonna last five or 10 minutes. Okay. Well finish that game and then we’re done.

[00:31:21] So it might be five, 10 minutes after the, the, the curfew, but just understanding. Okay. You, you, you know, you’re in a game. It’s gonna last for another six minutes. You can, you can have your six minutes. Yeah. And again, it’s just understanding their world. Yeah. And meeting them in and not fighting with them for the sake of it.

[00:31:38] Miriam: It, it seems to me that boundaries are difficult for people in any context. And you have the certain kind of people who are extremely rigid. I said, the thing goes off at 10 o’clock. It goes off now. And it doesn’t matter if that kid could have finished that level in another four minutes, it’s off.

[00:31:55] And now. You’re just frustrating your kid. And, and then there is the other [00:32:00] kind of person who said, I said it was 10 o’clock. I said it was 10 o’clock it’s now 1130. I said it was 10. O’clock turn it off. Yeah, turn it off. Boundaries are also muscles. How do you set a boundary in such a way that preserves the relationship, but is not a power struggle?

Setting Boundaries

[00:32:18] Miriam: How, how would you get them to help? Okay. We played for an hour and it’s gonna take another 45 minutes past the deadline to get to the new level. So how would you have them assert that boundary of, okay. We, we said 10 o’clock now it’s time to turn it off.

[00:32:36] Yeah, after

[00:32:37] Allan: that, it’s probably a little bit too much, but what I, what I would suggest in that is, okay, well, give, give the child a choice.

[00:32:43] Okay. It’s gonna take you 45 minutes, but that’s 45 minutes off your time tomorrow. And now the kid, the kid is, you know, you’re given some autonomy to the child. I don’t like that of going, okay, this is your choice. You know what? It’s gonna take you 45 minutes. That’s no problem. Do you want to, do you wanna end it now [00:33:00] or do you want to have those that 45 minutes tomorrow?

Battle of Wills

[00:33:03] So again, it’s, it’s not a battle of wills. It’s, it’s an understanding it’s one thing to set a boundary. That’s hard. It’s really hard to set a boundary. It’s even harder to maintain the boundary. And I will say to clients’ like, okay, have you put up a little kinda knee high, white picket fence here that they can step over or have you put up a wall, have you put up a wall, have you put up a wall with a gate of go, I can allow this. I can, I can choose to open and close the gate.

[00:33:29] When I was a teenager, you know, my mother would say to me, you know, when I’m going out and I need to wash the dishes, you know, okay. And I wouldn’t wash the dishes and I wouldn’t wash the dishes because I knew all I needed to do was put up five minutes of her giving out when she’d go home and she’d wash the dishes.

[00:33:44] You’re going, she’s going to give in and she’s gonna do this to herself.

Stay Strong With Boundaries

[00:33:47] So what she needed to do was she needed a whole rigid, you know, she needed a whole firm ago, said, well, this is the result. This is the consequences now, because, and of what happened from your decision.

[00:33:59] And it’s [00:34:00] always with that understanding of you have a choice and this is your choice. You can choose not to wash the dishes. And play your PlayStation or play whatever you may be, or you can choose not to. And you’re not gonna have a PlayStation tomorrow. Yeah. And with the, with the boundaries that everyone knows the rules and it’s not, you know, it’s not in a authoritarian parenting style where, you know, 10 0 1, the kids PlayStation is thrown out the window because they were told 10 o’clock.

[00:34:29] But understanding, knowing the rules, knowing what’s there of this is the consequences.

Your Choice

[00:34:35] This is your choice. You know, I had had, even my son, my youngest son is six and we were, we were on a, we were going on this boat down the river, Shannon out to a lake and stuff like that. He’s like, I’m bored. And I said, James, that’s a choice. It’s a choice to be bored. We’re on a boat. You can walk around, you can go over the other side of the boat.

[00:34:54] We can go up there. We can look at those birds. We need to understand that we have a choice and that [00:35:00] the kid has a choice. So like that, it’s like, okay, you’re right. 45 minutes to clear this level. All right, you can have that 45 minutes, but you’re gonna lose ’em tomorrow. So, you know, I’m willing to meet you.

[00:35:09] I’m willing to compromise. We we’ll bend, you know, we, we can bend here. We’re not gonna be so rigid that it snaps. So you choose you wanna you on play tonight or you wanna play it tomorrow? I’ll play it tomorrow. All right, cool. I’ll turn it off then. And you can get back to let me know how you get on tomorrow. Let me know if you clear that level or.

[00:35:28] Whatever it may be. Yeah.

Having Self-Control

[00:35:29] Miriam: Still showing that interest. I think that one of the things that’s so important that I explain to people with boundaries is that you have to be in control of yourself. You have to have that calm, assertive space that says this isn’t personal.

[00:35:47] And if he’s like, you know, just another 15 minutes or 20 minutes mom or whatever, and blah, blah, blah, you have to be able to say, you know, they’re in their own space and it isn’t. Directed at you. And then you give them the choice [00:36:00] and you let them make the choice.

[00:36:01] I can hear my listeners because I’ve heard, you know, clients say the, but, but this but this, but this, but this, but this, and there’s a thousand reasons why, whatever it is, won’t work.

[00:36:12] And I have to say. It’s going back to that experimental space of trying something, testing and learning, working with yourself and saying, okay, well, this piece of that didn’t work, but this other piece of it did. So let me keep this piece of it and let’s keep working with it until we get somewhere.

[00:36:32] We’ve been talking a lot about kids, but there’s an awful lot of adults who are partnered with someone who is, you know, Making a, a mess of their relationship with these games.

Not Worth the Fight

[00:36:44] What are your suggestions for a situation like that?

[00:36:49] Allan: I, I think it, it kind of, it goes to what you said earlier of, you know, do to just give in, do to just go, oh, it’s not worth the fight, you know? [00:37:00] And basically you’re enabling the behavior. Mm-hmm , you know what, what’s the consequence. So if he, if he or she stays playing. X amount more hours. What happens? What’s the consequences of that. You’re gonna have another route tomorrow. You’re gonna have another route tomorrow. Where’s that getting you? You know, and, and I, I constantly said the clients of how long do you continue to bang your head against the wall and complain about having a headache?

[00:37:28] Stop banging your head against the wall, do something different. This, this obviously isn’t working. What’s the consequences of, and again, it’s yo, well, if you do this, then I’m moving out. Or, you know, I’m, I’m doing whatever, you know, there, there has to be consequences for our choices and where we enable it. And, and I’ve seen this, I’ve seen it with clients of, you know, they’re coming in one particular lady and she was coming in.

[00:37:51] She was an alcoholic and, and the husband was given, he was going mad. He was giving out, he was the one that bought her to drink. [00:38:00] Mm. It was easier to buy her the drink. To keep her quiet. She was more manageable. So what needed to happen? That that conflict needed to happen. The drink needed to be taken away. The relationship needed to rupture.

The Repair Process

[00:38:12] Yeah. It needs to rupture, but the key part is the repair. Right? So how, what happens after the rupture? So constantly having the argument nothing’s changing.

[00:38:22] Miriam: No, no. And I think the, the moving out space can be extremely powerful. If you say something like, “I love you, but this is destroying our relationship. And I won’t sit by and watch it happen. I’m gonna go hang at my mom’s house for the next week and a half. And you figure out if you wanna stay married to me or partnered with me or whatever. Absolutely. Yeah. In a calm, loving way. I love you, but I will not be treated like this, or I will not tolerate this.

[00:38:53] Unfortunately, too many people kind of get to .”A space where they lose it. And then they’re yelling and screaming. And [00:39:00] at both parties are a Meg do in their, in their head. They’re fight flight or freeze. Nobody can hear anything. And I really recommend if you’re a person listening to this, that is in one of these situations, get some coaching from a therapist or a coach and find out how to stay in a space where you’re calm, but resolute and clear about what needs to happen. Mm. So that you can set a boundary that will stick.

[00:39:27] Alan, we’re getting close to the end here. Tell us a little bit about your podcast. I’d love to hear more.

Straight Talking Mental Health Podcast

[00:39:32] Allan: Yeah. So my podcast is the straight talk and mental health podcast.

[00:39:35] It, it does exactly what it says and it in it talks straight about mental health. You know, I’m a huge comedy fan.

[00:39:40] I’m Irish, you know, we’re, we’re known for our wit and stuff like that. And, and I incorporate it, you know, and I, I bring that through the therapy as a therapist, as, as a podcast host, I just try to be as genuine as I can be.

[00:39:56] You know, you’re talking to clients, but it has to be just us having the [00:40:00] crack. So the, I know a lot of Americans get mixed up with the word crack. It’s not crack cocaine crack in Ireland is it’s having the phone.

[00:40:06] It’s having laugh. It’s with your friends. That’s the crack. It’s C it’s C R a I C. So you have to crack, you know, you’re just having. Having the banter or having the fun.

[00:40:15] Miriam: Alan, this has been fun. It’s been a delight. Absolutely. One thing that my listeners know, and I mentioned to you earlier, we do a donation in your name and the charity that you chose was nature.

[00:40:24] Conservancy. So we’ll send that in your name and nature Conservancy is all about buying up land, so it can’t be developed so that it’s here for generations to come.

[00:40:34] Loved this interview, loved this conversation. Thanks so much. Miriam, thank you so much.

End Credits

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Music by Tom Sherlock.

head shot Miriam Gunn

If you are curious to know more, please contact me!

As someone who has been a therapist for over a decade and has been coaching people for over three decades, I am uniquely qualified to address your concerns.