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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

Process of Stretching

“We teach “safe” by placing almost no demands on the person except for being with the person with a sense of just “being.” It is a tremendously important for one human being to teach another it is good to be near you. Nothing more, nothing less. This act of recognizing the brokenhearted person’s existence and goodness is a most powerful teaching-learning experience. At the same time, we need to engage in nurturing and finding relevant ways to express unconditional love without pressuring the person at all. This might seem weird, but the person will learn to feel safe if we lower our demands while increasing our goodness, kindness, and expression of love. We need to avoid putting the horse before the cart. Doing things is not the primary purpose of care giving; being with one another is.

A dimension that is often hard to understand and deal with involves the emergence of self-centeredness, becoming spoiled, after a time of intense nurturing. It is natural to become self-centered as a result of constant nurturing. This creates another important care giving role. We need to slowly begin to focus on stretching the person away from self-centeredness and toward other-centeredness. This stretching process involves reminding the person that he/she is safe and loved while asking a slight degree more—waiting a moment, taking turns, sharing, and other virtues involving others and our relationships. This process is very delicate so we need to keep reminding the person of how safe and loved he/she is.

The developmental model outlined below is a good guide for us to use to understand the various dimensions of new memories that have to be taught:

• From brokenhearted and lonely, to safe and loved;
• From self-centeredness, to reaching out to others and loving expressing love to them; and,
• From dependence on us, to engagement with us and others.

Doing-things-is-not-the-primary-purpose-of-care-giving-being-with-one-another-is

Our pedagogical process starts with us encountering a brokenhearted person and bringing two simple gifts that we have repeatedly mentioned—the feeling of being safe and loved. We have nothing else to give. These are not a program, a clinical approach, or focused on outcomes. They can, if necessary, be translated into mundane outcomes, but, for the caregiver, they are gifts and these now established feelings need to begin to include being safe with a growing circle of others and becoming a meaningful part of increasing engagement.

This stretching process is a part of normal development. These include learning other moral milestones such as learning to share, a giving up, momentarily, of what is theirs; learning to wait and to take turns; wanting others to feel proud; and, learning when enough is enough—self-control. We all have to learn these milestones. Each requires a grounded stance that assumes that the brokenhearted person has learned to feel safe and loved and is ready for participation in a broader community. After these have been formed in the person’s moral memory, we can then begin focusing on strengthening self-esteem, learning that “I am good!” and self-control, learning when enough is enough!” The person’s world and responsibilities begin to expand.

After an intense dimension involved almost solely with unconditional love, it is natural to enter a phase of self-centeredness. It is then that our role evolves into carefully and delicately stretching the still fragile brokenhearted person from a state of self-centeredness to one of other-centeredness. It is a process in which the person learns that it is good to be with a small circle of others, then it is good to do things with this group, and eventually it is good to do things with a wider circle of friends, and finally it is good to do things for others. This last encompasses a high form of moral maturity.

We also begin to focus on the person’s self-esteem. This milestone emerges when others keep reminding the person, “You are so good!” This begins to occur from the very start when we are teaching that it is good to be together. What happens in this process is that the person begins to feel safe and loved from within. As this occurs, the person begins to see him/herself in a different light and forms a moral memory that says, “I am somebody because my caregivers tell me I am.” As the circle of friends grows, the person’s sense of self-worth also expands and becomes stronger.”

– John J. McGee, PhD

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

 

 

 

Psychology of Interdependence

“Regardless of the type of aggression, self-injury or withdrawal, we assume that a hunger for being-with-others rests in the human spirit, longs to be fulfilled, and , in many instances, needs to be uncovered. We struggle to uncover and fulfill this need in ourselves and others. We are often pushed by the fear of giving ourselves to others and pulled by the hope that such feeling give rise to. Our fear can lead us to lord over others in order to gain a false sense of power. But, the more we question our values, our hope can lead us to feelings of companionship. This pushing and pulling leaves us in a quandary–to reach out toward others or to preside over them. The desire to affirm the other is often buried in us by years of training that have taught us that independence is the central goal of life, and, for those who are on the fringes of community, compliance is the pathway to success.

Yet, self-reliance and blind obedience are lonely conditions that lock us and others out of the embrace of human warmth and affection. Those who are committed to care giving often do not recognize this struggle within themselves, let alone in the marginalized people whom they serve, So the first place to start in the psychology of interdependence is with ourselves, our values, and how we translate these into reality.”

John McGee

See Worthy

At the age of eighteen I had applied for a job at a coffee shop in the city that I had been living in. I had visited this establishment numerous times and fell in love with it; at the time I had seen it as a place that screamed adulthood, something that I was craving in my life. To my surprise, I had been asked to come in for an interview; I was ecstatic! As I entered the meeting I was greeted by the manager. He asked me a few questions about my work experience, desire for growth and future plans that I had for myself. The overall interview didn’t span more than ten minutes before the manager offered me a position at his coffee shop; My teenage dream came true! For the next few minutes he talked to me about work expectations (what I should wear and when I would be trained). For the next twenty minutes the manager began to blast me with statements such as,

“I know people like your kind–you better not disappoint.”

“All you teenagers are the same.”

” If you ever dare to call in sick because you are hungover, you can guarantee yourself an early retirement from this job!”

Your boss woud never yell at you at COR

I left the interview feeling deflated and heart-broken. ‘How could I be treated like this?’ I thought to myself. I wasn’t seen as the person I am, but seen as a stereotype. In that moment any worth that I had was extinguished with a swift blow and no filter on a over opinionated mouth.

In the world today, the idea of worth is something that doesn’t go unnoticed. A person is able to see the value of ‘worth’ on a daily basis. Whether it is the constantly changing stock market which drives the worth of our currency, the title that falls before the name of a person, or the color of robe that is worn at graduation ceremonies; a person’s worth is often built upon standards that society has crafted over time. While economics, academics and professional titles are not the problem, we need to work hard at challenging our perspective. Think with me for a moment: When a baby is born there is something magical about the community that seemingly appears out of no-where to celebrate this thing we call life. As quick as we take a breathe, this baby has been given value and worth–yet as the child changes and grows into an adolescent and then an adult so does the societal view of worth. Choices are made; some good and some bad. As much as we hate to admit it, we are capable of becoming hardened towards people and deflating a sense of worth.

Our role as part of humanity, friends and supports in building the worth of another person can be viewed through the  lens of a child’s building block set; we have three options: We can either stand idly by and do nothing, which is of little value, we can build the tower of worth up, or we tear the tower of worth down. In his book, ‘Mending Broken Hearts’, Dr. John McGee says, “The self is seen not so much as independent or self-determining, but as connected with others who help the person feel worthy because he/she is safe and loved.” The choice is yours– but I would challenge you to build.

Ben, Director of Culture and Mentorship

 

Feeling Fearful…Feeling Safe

“In the list that follows, compare how a person whom you serve struggles with fear and is distanced from a feeling of being safe. Reflect on the subtle interactions that the person expresses that show “I am safe with you” but always remember that we are not blaming ourselves. Yet, we need to gain insight into the fear that envelops those we serve. Look at each factor in the list and check those that apply. If fearful outweighs safe, then we know how important it is to teach the person a feeling of, “With us, you are safe!” Decide what major areas indicate fear. But, beware! We are not interested in focusing on behavior. They are only signs of a deeper anguish that is driven by deep fear and meaninglessness. Our full focus will be on dealing with fear. For now, get a sense of the fear that pervades the people we serve.

Feels fearful . . .

• Runs away
• Cries a lot
• Expressionless
• Sad appearance
• Slovenly
• Hits self
• Hits others
• Sleeps poorly
• Complains
• Refuses to participate
• Eats poorly
• Self-stimulates
• Curses
• Hordes
• Flinches

Feels safe . . .

Stays with others
• Expresses joy
• Relaxed
• Contented appearance
• Well-cared for
• Respects body
• Respects others
• Sleeps well
• Expresses love
• Enjoys participating
• Eats well
• Enjoys hobbies
• Uplifts others
• Shares
• Appears content

This initial analysis is a critical step for us since we often think that we do nothing to produce fear. We feel that the person is really “pretty happy.” Indeed, this may generally be the case. Yet, we have to look more closely. We might think that we do not do anything directly to cause fear. We might see the person as simply manipulative or seeking attention. We have to probe more deeply.

Our purpose is different. We choose not to control people. We choose to help them liberate themselves from fear and meaninglessness. We are not satisfied with, “Leave well enough alone!” We have to concern ourselves with the community of people whom we serve and teach all to live together. At school, home, work, or play, our task is to teach marginalized children and adults to feel safe with us and loved by us.”

John McGee
“Mending Broken Hearts: Companionship and Community”

History Changes Our Perspective

History. Everyone has one, yet most of the time they are hidden like little secrets that blow in the wind. When you meet a person it isn’t the first thing that typically comes to mind.

If I was to meet a stranger on the side of the road (because that’s my normal hangout spot 🙂 they would most likely notice that I am a pretty outgoing guy, I like to smile and find joy in the small things and hopefully notice that I am kind in spirit. At first glance you wouldn’t know that I’ve moved half a dozen times in my life, travelled as a musician for year or had an eating disorder in my teenage years. You wouldn’t be able to tell whether or not my parents were married or divorced and what my relationship with them is like. You wouldn’t be able to tell that art is soothing to my soul, or that my wife was the second woman I had ever dated and the only one to capture my attention and keep. You wouldn’t be able to tell that over the past three years mild health problems have led to intense bouts of anxiety. You wouldn’t be able to tell that I have been in six car accidents and have a perpetual fear of sitting in the passenger seat. And you wouldn’t be able to tell that one of those car accidents was because of a grasshopper that latched itself to my eye—this has caused a lasting fear of insects like grasshoppers and lady-bugs.

Contrary to popular belief my goal is not to expose my soul to the eyes and ears of our internet readers: rather to challenge our ideas of “history” and how it effects the way that we communicate and relate with each other. If a person knew that I had an eating disorder as a teenager, the likelihood of them teasing me about being overweight, fat or “chunky like a monkey” most likely wouldn’t happen. Why? Because when you know a person, your response changes. The person becomes less of a stranger; they have shared the intimacy of their life with you—they reach out with open hands asking you to be careful as they seek to trust you in relationship.

As we know, not everyone is willing to share freely about their life and its past events—this makes our job as a people difficult because regardless of who you are and where you came from, you have a history—stories upon stories that have come to shape your life, beliefs and character. Our job, though difficult, is exciting! Learning to approach people with unconditional love which knocks on the door of their lives asking to be part of their story, in true and honest relationship in a manner in which we are constantly learning about who they are as people, and not who they are on paper.

Ben, Director of Culture and Mentorship

Gentle Teaching: A Magical Transformation

“Gentle Teaching has evolved into a dyadic process; it encompasses an approach in which the caregiver is transformed, as well as the brokenhearted person. The transformation process has to start with the caregiver, but reaches outward to the broken hearted person. It is not an approach that presents fixed and immutable answers that caregivers follow in a lock step manner. It is one that asks caregivers to interact within a broad framework based on the prevention of harm and the expression of unconditional love. Harm’s prevention often initially involves giving the person what he/she wants, as long as it is not harmful, so that the caregiver can enter the person’s space and begin to teach

“When you are with me, you are safe and loved.”

It is not an approach that centers itself on behavioral change. It is an approach that beckons spiritual or internal change. Just to make it clear, this internal change can be translated into concrete and measurable behaviours, yet we must recognize that their origin is spiritual and moral in nature.”

John J. McGee

We cannot know who the “other” is unless we have some insight into who we are.

Spreading John’s wisdom… We cannot know who the “other” is unless we have some insight into who we are.

Gentle Teaching is grounded in the whole person and who the person is. A key assumption, especially when supporting those who are extremely violent toward others or harmful to themselves, is the understanding that behaviors have their origin in moral development—how human beings throughout their lives are in the process of learning how to interact with others and how each of us sees ourself and others. This moral development is inside of us and encompasses the memories that have been formed from the first moments of life to the present moment.

Moral memories are how we spiritually interact with the world. When these memories are sad and disorienting, they reside like haunting ghosts in the hidden corners of our being and, in a sense, whisper to us what clinicians will later call behaviors. Behaviors are the visible part of toxic weeds; memories are the roots. They are deep, often not known, and not intellectual, but moral memories. The use of behavioral techniques is like pulling out the surface of weeds but leaving the roots intact. Gentle Teaching goes for the creation of new moral memories that eventually lead the person to feel safe and loved and then “behaviors” begin to fade away.

John J. McGee