COR Family Night: A Culture of Gentleness as a Promising Practice

Family members and friends of COR are invited to join us for an evening discussion on a Culture of Gentleness as a Promising Practice, with special guest: Deirdre Mercer, Center for Positive Living Supports (Michigan, USA). This interactive and powerful learning experience will better your knowledge of the important role of a gentle caregiver. Space is limited. Please contact Michael for more details.

COR Family Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who The Other Is: Human Vulnerabilities and Gifts

Who the other is: HUMAN VULNERABILITIES AND GIFTS

Caregivers have to be very tuned into the life-story of the person and the significance and impact of inner vulnerabilities; we must also be astute at seeing or even sensing the life-giving gifts of each person such as forgiveness, curiosity, hope, and the slightest hints of a hunger to connect with others.

Vulnerabilities can be caused by a sorrowful, often undefined, vague, but morally defining, memories of years of segregation, loneliness, scorn, institutionalization, racism, sexual abuse, societal prejudice, illiteracy, poverty, imprisonment, neglect, war, dictatorship, torture, the loss of family members, political isolation, and poor health care. These experiences and often vague and ill-defined memories can be worsened by our lack of attunement or empathy for these conditions, ignoring their long-term effects, or taking a “lift yourself up by your bootstraps” attitude. Internal vulnerabilities can come from psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, manic-depression, depression or the often condescendingly cited “borderline” personality.  Caregivers frequently fail to recognize or understand the hidden power of past memories and the end result is comments such as knowing better, being manipulative, or attention seeking.

They can be made more difficult by physical disabilities such as seizures, sensory disorders, or the side effects of medications. The presence of developmental disabilities can make it more difficult for the person to defend self and reach out to others.

Each person is a unique expression of the human condition

Our human strengths and weaknesses are shared with those whom we serve. Each person is a unique expression of the human condition. Some are more troubled or burdened than others, but we all share the common thread of humanity. Within this fragile thread lie the values that bind us together. In our own personal lives, these vulnerabilities can arise at any time and threaten our well-being.

The question is to what degree does any individual need support when threatened by these and other forces. We need to recognize each person’s vulnerabilities and find ways to reach out to those who are more threatened. They are more than persons with vulnerabilities, mental illness, or behavior problems. They are full human beings with a range of gifts and vulnerabilities, a deep inner life that beseeches and long ago our attention, and longings that call for fulfillment.

While recognizing the need for teaching functional skills, our central caregiving role must focus on teaching each person to feel safe with us and loved by us. Although professional measurement tools to define the degree or absence of functional behaviors can play a useful secondary role in care giving, if the central developmental milestone of feeling safe and loved is not achieved, then any further discussion can be fairly shallow. If the center of the human condition has not been achieved or has been broken, the rest of learning is merely peripheral. If we can help form the center, skills will blossom. The assessment of our companion or becoming-companion is based on the assumption that we must focus on the center and then the periphery will take care of itself.

John J. McGee

Common Situations: Refusal to Participate

Common Situations: Refusal to Participate

If the person refuses to participate,

• Make sure there is a structured flow to the day, not just the emptiness of custodial care.
• Be aware of other caregivers who might be coaxing, cajoling, or bribing the person to participate.
• Bring about minimal participation by doing activities with the person.
• Continue to dialogue.
• Emphasize valuing and elicit it during any movement toward the slightest participation.

We are challenged to enable participation and establish feelings of solidarity

The major challenge in this situation is to make valuing occur, even in settings that contradict it. Many caregivers work in almost hopeless situations: institutions where the mentally ill are herded like animals, nursing homes where the aged are left to fade away, homeless shelters where the poor are warehoused for an evening. Although we need to fight for social justice and establish decent places for people to live, work and play, many caregivers still need to create hope and feelings of companionship where there is none. Thus, if we work alone in a setting that seems to be the antithesis of valuing and engagement, we have a special and difficult role: to bring hope where only despair reigns.

To bring hope where only despair reigns

 

We will often be ridiculed for our idealism and seeming naiveté. Yet we can express valuing and create feelings of companionship even in the midst of hopelessness. Our interactions are what matters. If the person in the most forsaken institutional ward runs from us and falls to the floor, we can keep on teaching the meaning of human engagement. If the person lashes out, spits, or screams at us, we can move toward him or her and continue to bring about engagement and give unconditional valuing. We are challenged to enable participation and establish feelings of solidarity regardless of the hellish reality in which we find those who are marginalized.

-John J. McGee, PhD

Mentors Cannot Give What They Do Not Have

“Mentors cannot give what they do not have. Mentors are not about changing anyone’s behaviours; they are about focusing on others feeling safe with them and loved by them. Nothing more and nothing less. When in situations where there might be opportunities to state what they are against, they merely share what they are for.

Mentors do not devalue, put down or condescend; they lift up, respect, and simply share what they might do. They do not forbid or frown upon those actions that they do not like. They must be embedded in daily hands-on experiences with the most marginalized. They find joy in being among the most forsaken; they reach out to the most abandoned. The Mentor’s work is with caregivers in union with the most marginalized.”

-John McGee

Mentors cannot give what they do not have

We Need To Be The Most Loving During The Worst Moments

“We often see ourselves as better than those whom we serve and express this in talking down to those who are troubled, acting condescendingly, separating ourselves from their lives, and making sure that we are in control instead of dialoguing. Our task as caregivers is companionship and community. Our culture makes it harder because there is an expectation that we must control others by withholding ‘positive attention’ when someone is acting out. Our position is the opposite. We need to be the most loving during the worst moments.

-John McGee

Our role as caregivers is to provide community and companionship

The Caring Moment

In the beginning we must always be in the moment with two bits of knowledge focused on giving a feeling of being safe and loved. We should avoid lengthy case histories and cleanly typed plans. If need be, do these requirements. However, our task is to be in the moment; it is not to change anyone’s behavior, but to teach the person to feel safe with us and loved by us.

The present is a series of moments that tumble into the future. Yet, we should not worry about the future, only the present moment. The here-and-now becomes the future with each ticking second. Our encounters transpire in the moment and then transform the next moment.

The-joy-is-in-the-moments

Whether a mother, father, grandparent, or a person whom we are supporting, the most important variable is the moment, not the future, not a projected plan with outcomes, not behavioral change. No, it is our being present in this very moment and all the person sees, hears, touches, and feels in this mutual coming together. It is the tiniest amount of time, perhaps two or three seconds. Then, these moments are linked together with other moments and it is these moments that become new moments; it is the evolving chain of moments that creates our moral memory in us as well as a memory in the other person.

Caregiving’s simplification involves teaching caregivers to be in the moment:

  • In bad moments this equates with forgiveness rather than control;
  • In all the good moments this involves a series of accidental and intentional encounters throughout the day focused on safe and loved;
  • The accidental encounters are merely brief moments of passing by and encompass a wave, a wink, a smile, a name, a thumbs up, maybe a hug if there is time, a whispering of “You are so good.”
  • The intentional encounters are a bit more planned and involve a chunk of caregiving time—from a minute or two or a half hour or more. The time depends. It should be structured in the day with the only purpose being to give a memory that the person is safe when with us.
  • The key is to stay in the moment. Joy is found in the moment.

Our task is simple, just being in the moment with the gift of helping the person to feel safe and loved:

  • Not a moment before,
  • Not a moment after,
  • Just in the now.”

-John J. McGee, PhD

Gentle Teaching International Conference 2015

Kansas City, USA welcomes the Gentle Teaching community! On September 9-11, 2015, Kansas City will play host to the 2015 international conference. More information can be found at www.gti2015.com.

Gentle Teaching International 2015 Conference

If you want more information about the 2015 Gentle Teaching International Conference find our events page on Facebook by clicking here.

Take a Stand Against a “Thanklessness Epidemic”

Over a year ago I started a personal blog where I would share my thoughts and insights on the world around me. It was my desire to write a post once a day for a year. I desperately wanted to keep it up, and did well for a time: but the personal pressure that I placed on myself became too much. The blog focused on one specific thing: the daily heroes that I would run into at work, at the grocery store, on the street and in the least unexpected places. My goal was to expose the beauty of the world around me and publicly thank the ‘daily heroes’ to my handful of faithful readers.  Although I haven’t logged a blog for some time, this thought of thankfulness has been constantly on my heart and mind. And dare I say, I think we are in a ‘thanklessness epidemic’. Don’t get me wrong, we can hear people say thank-you around us all the time, but is it anything more than a simple pleasantry or a moralistic mandate? We need to foster thankfulness and find moments where our deep appreciation is expressed in ways that it will be heard clearly and intentionally for what it truly is.

On the other hand, thanklessness is deeply tethered and connected to the inability to be content. When you are thankless, not only do you rob the other person of the glory that belongs to them, you convince yourself you could have gotten on fine without them. Author JD Greer says, ” Think of it (thanklessness) like plagiarism. Plagiarism is harmful on two levels: the first level is you rob someone else of the credit of their words. Secondly you delude others and yourself in thinking that you can come up with that level of idea all the time.” When we choose to be thankless, we turn our focus inwards and disregard others around us. We become so focused on “I”, “ME”, and  “MY” that we forget that is so often “OTHERS” that shape our life and it’s events. Although some people may like to live in a cavernous hermitage, most people need and want others around: let’s not forget our thankfulness often draws us into a greater sense on community.

Teaching thankfulness-is-not-to-be-seen-as-forcing-or-indoctrinating-someone,-rather-as-a-way-to-boldly-show-our-appreciation

In the Gentle Teaching community we talk about the four pillars (can anyone name them?): to be SAFE, to be LOVED, to become more LOVING AND to become more ENGAGED. Each one of these pillars are critical in building, establishing ans sustaining a relationship: with people we serve or otherwise. How do you help raise these pillars? One of the ways that I suggest is to increase the genuineness of our thankfulness. By becoming more thankful, and expressing our adoration and appreciation through words and actions we are directly able to help people feel safe and loved.

When I am genuinely thanked for something that I have done, I personally feel a deeper connection and appreciation for that person. Essentially I feel safe and more valued by that person, because they gave me both their time and words of affirmation. As we become more thankful around those that we serve we are teaching others to imitate what is good and right: we are teaching the foundation of healthy relationships. By modeling our genuine thankfulness before those we serve, we are teaching others to become more loving and engaged in their own lives. In essence we are saying, “Come, follow me…Do this..this is good and right.” Teaching thankfulness is not to be seen as forcing or indoctrinating someone, rather as a way to boldly show our appreciation to others and free those around us to accept, embrace and duplicate thankfulness in their own lives.

Got a story? I would love to hear about thankfulness in your life! Maybe it was someone that you noticed, or a story where you were edified because of someone’s courage to share their thankful appreciation with you. Send me a message at ben@creativeoptionsregina.ca

 

Signing-off,

Ben

Director of Culture and Mentorship

 

 

 

Teaching Feelings of Safety and Security

“If we want to teach feelings of safety and security, we need to question what we are doing and how we are doing it. The key is to look at ourselves and ask, ‘ What do we represent to the person–love or domination?’ If we see the person as our equal and if we define our relationship as one of brotherhood and sisterhood, then the answer becomes more obvious. We commit ourselves to making certain that our presence signifies feelings of safety and security. Yet, we need to deal with the irony of representing these feelings while face to face with rejection, disruption, or even violence.

Our interactions have to signal warmth, serenity and tolerance.

Our interactions have to signal warmth, serenity and tolerance. From the first instance, we need to make sure that the person interprets our presence as representing nonviolence. Warmth emanates from a strong desire to be one-with-the other. We have to put in check many customary reactions–demands, harshness, and objectivity. Care giving is a very personal process that needs to summon forth feelings of friendship. At first, we should not expect acceptance since all of the person’s history says control is the rule. But, in time, the person will begin to see us as representing safety and security.”

 

-John McGee

Our Approach is Based on Moral Development

“Our approach is based on moral development. This is not a church thing. It is an internal feeling that we develop over time about what is good, who we are, and why we are on this earth. It is an inner change, a change of the heart. It is what most children learn early in their life about feeling safe and loved. It is what many of us have to re-learn when we are crushed by life’s sorrows.

So, we have to develop an understanding of basic moral values and teach these in an authoritative manner, not coming down on the person, but patiently and repeatedly teaching them. Morality is the way we feel and view our role in life. It is made up of our basic beliefs that are learned through our own life-experiences and ongoing reflection on our place in the world. It is formed deep down in our memories over time and with many experiences. Morality is on the fringe of our consciousness. We often do not have to stop and think, “Should I do this or not do that?” Our life-decisions come out of deep, deep memories. A spirit of gentleness focuses on teaching deep moral memories to people whose hearts are broken. Our primary strategy is repeated acts of love.

The first moral rule is found in a feeling of companionship– safe, loved, loving, and engaged. We know, without even thinking about it, that we need to feel safe and loved on this earth. We gravitate toward those who fulfill this sense and move away from those who make us fearful. Yet, many people whom we support are filled with fear of themselves and of others. We look for meaning in our lives and find it in our relationships with others other family, our children, our friends. Many whom we serve do not have this type of meaning.

The second is found in community– the goodness of being with others, engagement with others, and reaching out to others, and a sense of connectedness with others. It is a feeling of being collectively safe, loved, loving, and engaged. It moves from a singular relationship with the caregiver to a collective relationship with a circle of friends.

Companionship and community occur in a spiral. The initial relationship is at the center, but slowly spins outward to others. Everyone needs the feeling of being safe and loved to also feel loving and engaged. This evolves with one person, then two, then many.”

 

-John McGee, ‘Mending Broken Hearts’