Bob Van Oosterhout

College Instructor, Counselor (LMSW, LLP), Lansing Community College
Harrison, MI, United States

About Bob

I'm passionate about

living with heart, understanding and exploring the potential of human nature, and working to solve problems that prevent us from living life to its fullest

People don't know I'm good at

continuing my daily meditation practice since 1972.

Favorite talks

Comments & conversations

109520
Bob Van Oosterhout
Posted 5 months ago
Ruth Chang: How to make hard choices
In my opinion, what was worth sharing was seeing hard choices as opportunities to define what kind of life we want to live. It takes us outside the frame of "what should I do?" by asking the more helpful questions such as, "What kind of life do I want to live? and, What kind of person do I want to be?" These questions are more experiential than conceptual. They require reflection rather than analysis, contemplation rather than computation. They expand rather than shrink the frame. This transforms either/or thinking into a process or exploring and clarifying what we believe is important and valuable about life. This allows us to write our own story about how we want to live our lives rather than simply choosing from among the limited items on the menu that the world seems to offer at any given time.
109520
Bob Van Oosterhout
Posted 5 months ago
Ruth Chang: How to make hard choices
I have worked with a lot of people who have made regrettable decisions based on a pro/con tool. An objective process is fine when dealing with objects but looking a options about how to live one's life requires a different process. I describe it as a discovery rather than a decision. Something we explore more than something we think about. It involves realizing what kind of person we want to be and what kind of life we want to live. Ultimately these choices are best based on what is in our heart and in our soul. Pro vs Con is a process for dealing with objects, not with the nature of the decision maker.
109520
Bob Van Oosterhout
Posted 5 months ago
Ruth Chang: How to make hard choices
Ultimately, the hard choice is whether to “wholeheartedly become the people that we are” or “to allow the world to write the story of (our) lives.” The world ...write(s) the story of our lives” by creating conceptual frames that we interpret as reality. When a conceptual frame becomes fixed, we don’t see what’s outside of it. I had a picture of the moon rising over the ocean on the wall of my office. I would point out that there might be a sinking boat or a beach party just outside the frame that would change the whole picture. I also point out that fear, stress, and tension puts our mind into crisis mode, which narrows our frames while pulling our focus toward threats and problems. It creates a smaller frame that emphasizes the negative. I put a small empty frame over the dark sky to illustrate how this works and note that someone in this state of mind and emotion might ask “Why is there a picture of darkness on the wall.” In my experience, being open to a process of discovering our nature and potential requires two things: Balance and a flexible frame - getting rid of tension and softening the boundaries of what we think we know. It sums up what consistently worked when people I saw restored health and solved problems over thirty-six years of teaching and counseling. I like to describe it as “Seeing clearly with an open heart.” I believe that making choices that consistently keep us moving in the direction of seeing more clearly with a more open heart could be the ultimate solution to all problems. It leads to integration and inclusion, acknowledgment of our interconnectedness and interdependence, and understanding of our limitations and possibilities. It recognizes the value and potential of each person and realizes ultimately that what is best for the whole is for each person to “wholeheartedly become the person” he or she could be. Seeing clearly with an open heart allows us to fully “celebrate what is precious about the human condition.”
109520
Bob Van Oosterhout
Posted over 2 years ago
Is there an exact, definite criteria or standard on ethics?
The problem with ethics is that it tries to solve multifaceted problems with linear thinking about what is right or wrong. I believe a solution is to view ethics as a perceptual rather than a conceptual issue - how we see things versus how we think about them. We make ethical decision to the extent that we perceive a situation through compassion, hope, personal responsibility and humility. To the extent that we perceive situations through the opposite perceptions of defensiveness, fear, blame and self-centeredness, we are more likely to act in ways that are unethical. Ethics becomes clearer when we start from a sense of the interconnectedness of all human beings and all of nature. Seeing our world through eyes of compassion, hope, personal responsibility, and humility allows us to recognize that. Ethics is simply a matter of seeing clearly.
109520
Bob Van Oosterhout
Posted over 2 years ago
How do you move beyond why, when someone takes their own life? How do we get beyond the shame?
Thank you Sarah, Yes please use it anytime it may be appropriate. I have found it extremely helpful in dealing with post and threatened suicide situations. It is a natural response to narrow our field of vision when there is a perceived threat (I use a story about a deer spotting me through our living room window and then intensifying her focus when I moved. My dog came trotting around the side of the house and got closer to a deer than he ever had in his life because she was focused on me. I have found that a build up of tension has the same effect. I have made a number of videos for a class I teach and have posted them to my website www.bobvanoosterhout.com You are welcome to view them and share them with anyone who may benefit from them. There are 4 videos on what I refer to as "balance techniques" as well as video on understanding emotion, dealing with loss and chronic pain. These videos explain how and why this approach works. The key in managing chronic pain is not to resist it. When we resist or fight pain, we build tension which actually makes the pain worse while narrowing our focus on the pain. Narrowing one's focus on the pain increases tension further which in turn makes it worse and narrows the focus still more setting up an ever escalating cycle that leads to what I call emotional blindness.
109520
Bob Van Oosterhout
Posted over 2 years ago
How do you move beyond why, when someone takes their own life? How do we get beyond the shame?
Dealing with the loss of loved ones to suicide is one of the most confusing and difficult issues I have seen in 36 years of counseling. Your question, Sarah, is very helpful one. The key to recovery and integration, in my experience, is in moving beyond questions, fear, and shame. It is helpful to understand that a person who commits suicide is blind. As pain and fear increase our field of vision, the frame through which view and interpret our world, becomes smaller as it focuses more and more on the pain. At some point , the pain fills the whole picture. One may be blinded by physical or emotional pain, by hopelessness, mental illness, substance abuse, or other issues, but the bottom line is that all one sees is pain, and the only end to the pain they see is death. At that moment, they were blind to the love of those around them and could not see or feel any sense of hope or help. (Helping a person move away from suicide, in my experience, is most easily done by helping them to recognize that they are blind, accept the pain as a natural part of the human condition to some degree and to see a slightly larger picture.) The question “why do they do it” can be answered truthfully in all cases with a simple response “because they were blind.” It is not much different than a blind person unknowingly stepping off a cliff. They simply did not fully understand their situation and the options available to them. Every time questions regarding how or why it happened come into our minds, it is helpful to develop the habit of answering each one with a statement, “because they were blind at the moment.”
109520
Bob Van Oosterhout
Posted over 2 years ago
Critical thinking versus opinion.
Mary wrote "You are disagreeing with the horse's mouth.....in other words, the people who say what critical thinking is and isn't. You are not disagreeing with me" I don't have a problem disagreeing with the horses mouth. I often disagree with people at the other end of the horse as well. Mary wrote "Because critical thinking happens naturally, some learn to maneuver it for their advantage. You cannot tell me that when people ask insightful questions it is only for a common good." Asking clear questions gets one to the truth. Any deviation or manipulation is revealed through the process of questioning. If critical thinking promotes something other than that, I have no interest in it.
109520
Bob Van Oosterhout
Posted over 2 years ago
Critical thinking versus opinion.
Mary wrote: " "Critical thinking........when grounded in selfish motives, is often manifested in the skillful MANIPULATION of ideas in service of one’s own, or one's groups’ vested interest." I disagree with this statement. Clarifying and asking helpful questions leads to the truth. If critical thinking is simply skillful use of language to achieve a potentially selfish goal, it is best not to teach it.
109520
Bob Van Oosterhout
Posted over 2 years ago
Critical thinking versus opinion.
Mary wrote "But I don't think that people in general need to know the definition of critical thinking to put it into practice. Do you?" I think the definition and the term itself interfere with people putting it into practice. Why not simply talk in terms of clarifying or asking questions that help one understand and see a larger picture more clearly. Mary asked: "Do you feel there is a lack of critical thinking in adults? If yes, which adults do you feel lack this skill the most?" I believe that the lack of ability to ask good questions is one of the most pressing problems facing our world today. The adults who seem to lack the skill the most in my opinion are politicians and the journalists who Interview them and never never seem to follow up with questions that actually get to the truth. Mary asked: And secondly, have you helped someone to overcome critical thinking problems/issues? -- I've worked as a teacher and counselor for 36 years with the goal of helping students and clients to see and think more clearly. I facilitated and empowerment program for people in poverty, called the Hard Times Café, for nine years. A major thrust of my work there was ensuring that the consensus decision-making process was clear and inclusive. Patrons formed self managing teams that operated all facets of the program, including office management, accounting, starting and operating businesses, strategic planning, and overall management of the program and weekly meetings. In my opinion, mostly all of the 1200+ people who participated in the program demonstrated an ability to clarify and ask helpful questions that allowed them to see a larger picture more clearly from various perspectives. It was the most efficient operation I have ever seen. The training manual for this program is available on my website www.bobvanoosterhout.com under empowerment.