The founder of “Conjoint Family Therapy” was Virginia Satir. It’s impossible to write about family therapy without mentioning her name. Although some may consider her work to be dated and unscientific she undoubtedly made some very uncanny observations about the way we as human beings behave in families. Her contribution to this field is without question very important.
4 Key areas that contribute to pain in dysfunctional families.
Before I begin I must state that most levels of dysfunction are due to unconscious and unseen processes within a family, they are not always overt, well thought out and planned. They happen like a knee jerk reaction, they may come from years of historical trauma, systems and events.
- Lack of Self-worth – Not accepting within the family system, failing to nature, no respect to uniqueness of an individual and lacking value and appreciation.
- Communication – The largest part for making a relationship work.
- Rules – How the family should think, act and feel, this creates the “family system”
- Links to society – How the family interacts with and relates to the world and all of its institutions.
Self Worth in the Family
- Uniqueness must be tolerated, differences understood
- Mistakes must be accepted and learned from co-operatively
- Communication needs to be open, honest, level and congruent (togetherness)
- Rules should be flexible and depend on the person, age, and context.
- A need for acceptance and nurturing is vital for keeping up self-worth
Satir viewed this as one of the most vital aspects of having a good relationship or even SURVIVNG life.
- Communication is vital to surviving life
- How we develop intimacy
- Develop career
- Develop understanding
How to get it all wrong in communication:
- Having double layers (we’ll explore this meaning in a moment)
- Saying things and not doing or meaning them
- Speaking one thing but the body language or tone of voice showing another
- Changing the subject
These maladaptive styles of communication are not usually deliberate, they are subconscious to help us avoid pain, but instead usually promote anxiety and lack of self-worth within the family.
The Double level – HOW IT OCCURS
- When there is low self-esteem and bad feelings with family to each other
- When people are afraid of hurting each others feelings by pointing out truths
- When family members are scared that another family member might persecute them
- When the family member is concerned that he or she will rupture or destroy an already precarious relationship
- When people do not want to impose on each other
- When a person no longer cares about the family or relationship they are in
There are 4 types of common patterns of maladaptive communication to ward off feelings of rejection.
RESCUING / PLACATING – To make people feel less angry. Stops people becoming mad or worthless, but it pushes family members in a victim or dependant role.
BLAMING – Makes the other members see you as powerful and strong. Usually keeps the person doing the blaming feeling lonely and unsuccessful.
COMPUTING – Cool, controlled, reasonable, no feelings, individual feels less vulnerable.
DISTRACTING – You ignore the real threat by acting like everything is fine. He / She will speak in ways which are irrelevant. Makes people around them feel like they don’t care or that no one cares.
The Family Rules
This is a very powerful force in all our lives, however most family rules are:
- RARELY EVER SPELT OUT
They may be relevant or completely outdated, fixed or open to discussion for change.
Rules cover: Speech, what’s acceptable, behaviour, relationships, how to spend time, hobbies, holidays, rituals, what’s taboo, how to acknowledge each other, expressions of feelings, patterns of thinking, beliefs, assumptions, attitudes, traditions and family secrets.
LINKS TO SOCIETY –
How we relate within our family will be revealed by how we relate to society. Unfortunately, this can be a very saddening anchor for some as anti-social behaviour within the family can make a child very anti-social and lead to a very painful legacy such as drug addiction, prison sentences and problems at school.
Some families on the other hand will encourage conformity – in either a good or bad way.
Some families will encourage rebellion
Some are co-operative, some are most certainly not.
Q: What was your family like? Answer in the comment’s section below.
Families teach us how to think, act and judge. They teach us what to expect out of life, a lot depends on if the family is open or closed.
Virginia Satir emphasised the importance of love and nurturing for healing a family and an individual. Whilst her views are unshakably accurate, she ran into some difficulties via academics that stated her writings and studies were not grounded in scientific testing, which is very important when considering the affect of a theoretical model of counselling.
Stay tuned for part 3.
– Written By Dylan Kerr 2018
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