#048: Personal Transformation and Disability, with Ted Kuntz

[4-minute read, 60-minute listen]         

Ted Kuntz is a gifted psychotherapist and the author of the best-selling books, Peace Begins With Me and 8 Weeks to A Better Relationship. Ted has a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and more than 25 years experience as a clinician and a consultant. Much of Ted’s wisdom has come from his personal journey as the father of a child with severe disabilities. Ted’s journey with his son Joshua taught him how to make peace with life and to take full advantage of the gifts and opportunities life offers.

Below is a summary of some of the highlights from my conversation with Ted. If you find this read interesting you can listen to the conversation in its entirety by clicking play on the player below, or searching ‘Empowering Ability’ on your podcast player, such as, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play.

I was fortunate to meet Ted at Partner’s for Planning’s Art of Resilience event this year, where I told Ted that I saw his talk the previous year at the Art of Belonging. It was one of the most inspiring talks that I’ve experienced, and Ted’s stories went straight to my heart. When I met Ted I shared my gratitude for his talk and vulnerability. I also shared that I had purchased his Book “Peace Begins with Me.” But embarrassingly, I hadn’t read it yet. I invited Ted to join me on the podcast, and I promised myself that I was going to read his book. We both kept our promise, and I am happy to bring you insights from Ted Kuntz!

Ted’s Journey (so far):

I’ve paraphrased Ted’s story from the podcast episode below and quoted some important conversations Ted shares.

“It has been a very challenging journey, but very rich journey. It took me while to embrace the rich journey. At 5 months of age my son Joshua was damaged by a vaccine shot and developed an uncontrollable seizing disorder resulting in a neurological injury. This injury resulted in 24-hour care for the rest of his life and significant disabilities. In February 2017, Joshua passed away.”

Josh transformed Ted as a father and human being in ways that Ted could have never imagined. I ask Ted on the podcast, “Are there moments or experiences of transformation that you can share with us?”

Ted shares that there are two experiences that he has identified as the most transformative, the first was when Ted went to see a psychic:

Ted asked the physic: “Will my son live?”  

Psychic: “Have no fear the son will outlive the father.”

Ted: “If my son will live, what will he be when he grows up?”

Psychic: “Your son will be what he already is, and that is a teacher.”

Ted didn’t understand how his son would be a teacher at first, but the words sat with him. What he came to realize is that Joshua was here to teach him about being a human being. He was here to teach acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, and working through human challenges.

The second transformative experience that Ted shares on the podcast is his daily ritual with Joshua. When Ted pulled into the driveway after work he would see Joshua at the window saying, “Hi Dad”. When Joshua wasn’t at the window to greet Ted, Ted knew that Joshua wasn’t having a good day. On this day, Ted pulled into the driveway and he stood there looking at his son in joy, and a voice inside of Ted’s head asked him this question, “When your son looks through the glass at you what does he see?”

Ted reflected on this powerful question, and Ted found the truth; Joshua sees a father who is angry, afraid, and a father who is rejecting his son. Ted committed that day to make peace with his situation, to accept it, to claim his joy, and to fall in love with the son he had. That was the day Ted’s life began to change.

Insights:

Eric shares, “For us to have these transformations we need to embrace these moments and let ourselves bring these questions and experiences into our consciousness to find our truth.”

Ted shares, “The transformation came out of an intense amount of suffering. Suffering can be one of the gateways to wisdom.”

I ask, “How do you shift out of suffering state to a state of joy?”

Ted replies, “Take responsibility for emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual state of being. We often give away our power – something else is responsible for our happiness, peace and joy. [For example,] I’ll be happy when Josh stops seizing. If I hold the story that my happiness is dependent on Joshua’s seizing stopping, then I couldn’t be happy. We need to claim ownership of our way of being in the world. I make me happy, I make me sad, I make me angry. Why would I make myself angry? It doesn’t serve me and the rest of humanity by staying in that [angry] state for a long period of time. I can release it any point.”

“I believe when we are operating at our highest potential as human beings that we are living life as creative beings. That we are creating the next moment. Unfortunately, I spent the first 45 years of my life as a reactive being.”

The Hidden Gifts of Disability

Ted Shares, “It [disability] challenges us in a way that we are forced to respond. At first it moved me to those darker places, but I’ve since learned there is a healing that comes about when there is an acceptance. I’ve chosen to live in peace and joy, because my son deserved that. It changed me as a father, a husband, a brother, a son. It made me a better person.”

Ted shares the story of Joshua’s grade 7 teacher:

Paraphrasing from the podcast Ted shares, “When Joshua was entering grade 7 there were 2 male teachers, who were athletes, selecting students for classes for the upcoming year. They decided to do a coin toss for who would pick first. The teacher who won the coin toss looked at the list of students and selected Joshua as the first pick. The other teacher asked, ‘Why Josh? He requires a wheel chair, has an uncontrolled seizure disorder, he has many other needs.’ The other teacher replies that he notices how the kids excitedly greeted Joshua in the morning, how they gently took off his coat, how the other kids altered the rules of the game so Joshua could play at recess, how the children where there laying on the mat with Joshua as he recovers from seizure. If Joshua is in my class it will make it a kinder and gentler place for everyone.”

This teacher helped Ted see Josh’s gifts. Ted was now able to look at Josh with a different set of eyes.

Ted shares, “Is the glass half full or half empty? It is both. Do I look at the full parts, or do I look at the empty parts? We have been socialized to believe that success looks a particular way. What people like Sarah [my sister] and Joshua do is that they remind us that there are other qualities to aspire to. There are things that I wasn’t going to learn from a book, I needed to be in relationship with a person more vulnerable that myself. This is a challenging journey. Let’s not just look at the parts that are difficult, lets also look at the gifts that can be realized out of this journey. Let’s not lose that opportunity to experience some significant transformation as a result of this life experience.”

To embrace this mindset that everybody is a gift to us, Ted plays a game with himself. He asks himself, ‘Who is going to show up today?’, and ‘What gift do they have for me?’, ‘What gift do I have for them?’.  It forces him to appreciate everyone he interacts with.

In this episode, Ted also shares the native story of two wolves – the negative and positive wolves fighting our hearts, a tool to find more joy in our lives, and we discuss David Hawkings map of consciousness. Listen to the podcast for more on this!

*You can listen to the podcast by clicking below.*

Ted leaves us with this message to consider:

“Your way of being is actually more important than what you do. We would be better off if we made ‘To Be:’ lists every day, rather than ‘To Do:’ lists. Be gentle and kind to ourselves. We are on a journey of development. One of the things that I believe is that we don’t make mistakes, we actually make the best decision available to us at that moment with the information, skills, and knowledge that we have.”

I am grateful for the stories, insights and rich conversation Ted gave us.

If you received value from reading this blog or listening to this podcast episode, consider sharing it with someone else you feel would benefit. Coming soon there will be a way for you, or your organization, to contribute to this work. Stay tuned for the details.

Love & Respect,

Eric Goll

Resources:

Ted’s Book: Peace Begins With Me

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