The Story Behind What We Do

Everybody has a story and each person’s story is a unique autobiography and only that person fully knows their story.

However, some aspects of a person’s story may be known only at an unconscious level and this hidden world will only become available to consciousness when the person finds adequate emotional and social safety, initially with another and, subsequently, within self.

The story of a person’s life is not the events he or she encounters – for example, difficult birth, loving mother, emotionless home, conditional loving, violent father, possessive mother, kind grandparent, affirming teacher. The story consists in the person’s inner responses to these events. What is amazing in a family or classroom or workplace is that each person responds in a unique way to situations that arise. This means that each child has a different mother and a different father, each student a different teacher, each employee a different manager and each voter a different politician. This makes total sense because when two individuals interact, inevitably, their interaction will be of a unique nature. Parents are powerful witnesses to how each child is completely different from the other and this happens whether children are reared in benign or difficult circumstances.

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Raising Responsible Teenagers

When a child or teenager goes on the rampage in response to a ‘no’ from a parent, what is the parent to do? Certainly, a clip around the ear would only be fighting fire with fire and does not model for the young person a mature way of managing a conflict situation. The immediate response to a child who is attempting to gain control through destructive or terrorising behaviour is to physically hold the child in a firm and non-threatening way that is safe for the parent and prevents him/her from continuing the intimidatory behaviour. When it is a teenager, the parent needs to keep a safe distance, maintain strong eye-contact and request firmly that (s)he immediately desists from this disturbing behaviour. If the teenager continues rampaging, then within the young person’s earshot, the parents need to ring the police and request immediate help. This latter response is both a kindness to self and to the son or daughter.

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What Lies Hidden

Leo Tolstoy wrote that ‘all happy families are alike, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’  The reality is that most families are a mixture of hurtful and nurturing experiences, but the most common illusion is that we all come from happy families!  The myth of the happy family is a clever creation that seeks to keep hidden the neglect – physical, sexual, emotional, social, intellectual, behavioural, creative – within a family.  The façade of the happy family is reinforced by regular contact, regular family meetings, family celebrations and an over-involvement in each other’s lives but every interaction stays at the surface level.  What lies beneath is skilfully avoided.  

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