I really admire this amazing Danish professional, Jesper Juul, who seems to truly go to the bottom of the issue of social relationships. He uses a lot of systems theory concepts, but he adds to that a certain warmth, rather than the cold evaluation that is characteristic to Minuchin, Watzlawick, Gregory Bateson, Jay Haley, or other systemic thinkers.
"Personal language -'I want', 'I don't want', and so forth- only works if it really is personal. If it is undetermined, used for other purposes, or used as a linguistic trick, such as merely replacing 'you' with 'I', it ceases to be effective. Those [...] who grew up in families in which personal language was forbidden or considered unsuitable, need time to rediscover this form of expression, but it is worth the effort. It is invaluable in rescuing not only our relationships with our children, but our relationships with spouses, parents, colleagues, superiors -- and ourselves. "
Applying this to my clients who are busy professionals:
Personal language has to do with knowing that someone addresses us in a genuine way. That they really mean what they communicate to us, that they are able to personalize their talk, their discourse, their communication. If someone really makes an effort to have a genuine dialogue with us, by using a personalized language, we feel that they truly appreciate us as we are. That means that we matter, that we count, that we exist!
Juul makes sure to specify that no behavioral or any other change will occur within a social system, which in this case is the stressful work environment, if we merely mimic the personal language, if we just pretend, imitate, reproduce a technique seen or learned in a coaching workshop.
There are thousands of motivational speakers and coaches out there who are very popular for "inventing" a recipe of how to fix relationships with others and/or your own self. However, real and durable change is not possible by applying recipes, by transforming the communication with Self or others into standardized, mass-produced interactions, delivered by a wellness machine.
It is the reason for which Synergis Counseling is working in a highly personalized manner. We custom our knowledge and expertise to EACH AND EVERY CLIENT. This ensures long term results, and not only a temporary decrease of the conflict level.
Synergis specializes in working with highly skilled, busy professionals who are experiencing difficulties in their workplace and/or personal life.
We work individually with each of our clients in order to help them identify
THEIR PERSONAL LANGUAGE, their specific way of relating and interacting with their staff, colleagues or friends.
This is why our "method" cannot be copied or reproduced, since it is PERSONALIZED, recreated every single time from scratch around a specific individual and circumstances.
The more often we sacrifice our integrity for the sake of cooperation, the more pain we incur. We can become so good at repressing the pain that neither we ourselves nor those around us notice it. Inevitably, however, we emit a verbal or non-verbal signal that something is wrong. If we and those closest to us take the signal seriously, then understand its significance and change the way we react, the conflict is solved and the pain eases or ceases. If none of these things happens, the signal increases or changes (becomes a physical act instead of a statement). Eventually, an actual symptom will reveal itself. The first signal is fatigue. The ultimate ones are murder or suicide.
I noticed that many people react to this quote in a very surprised way, after which they tend to say something like "I think this is exaggerated". They have difficulties understanding how can we not notice that, especially as adults, that we often sacrifice our own integrity.
We live in a world which tends to spin faster and faster, where renewal of objects, trends and behaviors is happening at an intolérable pace. The economy, based on permanent move and change, dictates that the faster you "adapt", the more likely it is to be "successful". The result is life as a vertigo, where pause, slowness, contemplation, are ignored or disdained, deemed "unproductive".
It is a way of living in which SIGNS of objects have become more important than the objects themselves: if the first (noticeable) layer looks good, that means that the object or the person behind that superficial layer is good. Not only that people do not have time to look behind the appearances. But there are now entire generations of individuals who are not aware and cannot understand that the world is made out of layers, that it has also depth, not only surface. If an apple is big, red, shiny and flawless, it doesn't mean at all that it is healthy to eat, since there is good numbers of unhealthy chemicals that have been used to create the SIGN of a "perfect" apple.
It is extremely easy, in a fast spinning world that projects a reality formed by signs of objects and persons, to not notice how often we sacrifice our own and our children's integrity? In bigger social systems (countries, states) politicians change laws and constitutions so that they can validate torture and bribery. In smaller social systems, like families and couples, we have created rules which legitimize and promote the sacrifice of the integrity, in the name of cooperation, in the name of becoming "good".
Therefore, it is only normal that ANGER and AGGRESSION have become such prevalent symptoms in both poor and rich nations.
It is precisely this repeated violation of one's integrity that creates individuals for whom destructive behavior, whether directed towards others or self, becomes a way of living.
The first and most common self-aggressive behavior that comes to my mind is the abuse of substances. As a professional I do not endorse abstinence as a way to prevent excesses, unless it seems to be the best solution to put an end to a long process of self-inflicted aggression. But it is still surprising to realize the extent to which the abusive consumption of illegal and prescribed drugs has been normalized. By creating a specific standard of "happiness", sacrificing integrity and individuality in order to appear to have achieved that standard, has become the norm. Showing sings of "happiness" or of "being positive", regardless of how sad or angry we feel, is a prerequisite for being "successful".
It is precisely this one of the most important sources of aggression: the forceful cooperation, the submission, the clash between reality and the forceful acceptance of signs of reality. An acceptance that can be possible only if we repeatedly ignore our intuition and sacrifice our integrity.
"CHILDREN COMPETENTLY EXPRESS, BOTH VERBALLY AND NON-VERBALLY, THE NATURE OF THE EMOTIONAL AND EXTERNAL DILEMMAS THAT THEIR PARENTS ARE EXPERIENCING."
(Jesper Juul, Danish family therapist, www.family-lab.com)
Jesper Juul does not reinvent the wheel. But he made a vehicle that is truly efficient, albeit uncomfortable to drive. Juul is very different than the average family therapist in quite a few ways:
1. Brilliant Observer: he is willing to notice the adult-child interactions in bus-stops, restaurants, parties, supermarkets.
2. Honesty: he has the courage to formulate the issues as they are, without coating them in order to appeal to as many parents as possible. In other words, he is not selling a product, but he is sharing his ideas, knowledge and experience as a professional and parent. He has the courage and ability to go beyond the norms, including:
- the extreme rigidity of parenting cultures like the ones that can be found in Romania, where tight control of the child's behavior is exercised full force and upfront;
- the extreme flexibility of parenting in California (and other states of the US), where children are let to develop "freely", which often is just another way of giving up parental responsibility, making room for TV and internet to step in and educate the consumer (=individual) they would like to have.
- the insidious "togetherness" from Latin American and Latin European families, which traps children in a vicious circle where the emergence of individuality is seen and sanctioned as a threat to the unity (togetherness) of the family.
3. Systemic Thinking: Juul is able to look at the couple/family/community/nation/etc. as SOCIAL SYSTEMS, which influence one another. For this reason I have the feeling he is probably not liked in many countries. Especially those which value one of the extreme approaches to social interaction: the individualistic approach, or the family/togetherness approach (where the individual disappears within the Family Ego Mass, to use a Bowen term). For similar reasons systemic thinkers like Salvador Minuchin, Murray Bowen, Gregory Bateson are not very well regarded, since understanding and accepting their concepts requires honesty and full awareness of how one's personal reactions and actions influence the social systems he/she is part of.
So, here are my 2 cents: the way an individual deals with frustration, anger and aggression is closely related to how much his or her dignity has been chipped away throughout life. And not only by parents, but also by teachers, friends, media, pharmaceuticals and politicians.
I know, thousands of people said this.
But very few are willing to look at anger from this systemic point of view. The large majority wants to find out about The 5 Easy Steps Toward an Anger Free Life. And since it sells, it is also offered in insane quantities.
To be continued.
For quite a few years now I find myself more and more interested in writing. For this purpose I created a dedicated business, HERMES' WRITINGS.
Well, today is the big day: the first Hermes' Writings book is out on Amazon's Kindle! The surprising thing, even for me, is that it is a children's book! And moreover, ALELUKI LOVES NOT TAKING A NAP is part of a series of children books, which describe a toddler's interaction with his parents and the world from the attachment theory perspective.
The concepts of attachment and separation have been interested me for a long time now and I wrote about them in essays and fiction. It is fascinating for me to notice (as a therapist, coach, parent, friend, etc.) the extent to which the way we view life and the way we interact socially is influenced by our patterns of attaching and separating from people, places and things. Social symptoms like:
- anger, agressive and addictive behavior,
- anxiety, phobias and agitation,
- unhappiness, low self-esteem, chronic lack of trust,
- overeating and starving oneself,
can all be traced to insecure attachment and inability to separate from people and objects. The social implication of insecure attachment is extremely vast, leading to the creation of huge businesses, which in turn reinforce these behaviors -- I can mention here just the pharmaceutical industry, or the advertising industry, which promotes objects and services as solutions to (real or perceived) ABSENCES in one's life.
Therefore, my intention is to create children's books that are fun, funny and informative. Books that inspire parents and caregivers to notice how specific emotions, patterns of thought and behavior, are shaped as part of a toddlers' individuality, as a result of their everyday interaction with the world around them.
I created ALELUKI together with illustrator and artist Hana Breitenhoffer, as a series of books addressing common issues that many 21st Century families are dealing with very active children: the afternoon nap, TV watching, going to bed, making friends, living in a multicultural environment.
Our next book will tell the story of ALELUKI IN SEARCH OF HIS FEARS. We look forward to hearing your opinions.
Visit http://www.hermes-writings.cosmingheorghe.net/children.html and send a message to Active Aleluki!