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Above All No Harm

In Gentle Teaching caregivers become aware of how their interactions decrease the probability of violence by focusing on:

• The need to teach a culture of trust, companionship, and community through the creation of new memories based on feelings of being safe and loved.

• Initially lowering expectations and increasing hope. Although caregivers often have seemingly reasonable expectations, the brokenhearted are not ready to do what is expected because they do not feel safe and loved within the caring community. There is little reason to trust a caregiver without these new feelings. Without a strong foundation based on trust, high expectations shatter. The first dimension of caregiving is to establish trust and this arises out of feelings of being safe and loved. If caregivers are too pushy, this could easily spark violence.

• Within this construct, the caring community has to slow down and understand that “The slower we go, the faster we will get there.”

• The avoidance of any compliance attitudes that push brokenhearted individuals into a corner and provoke violence.

• The use of our very presence, words, gazes, and touch in a manner that uplifts each person along with a tender and genuine tone turning each syllable, touch, or gaze into the moral equivalent of an embrace.

• The avoidance of attitudes such as so-and-so knows better, just wants attention, or is manipulative. These can be true but are irrelevant in Gentle Teaching; the focus has to be on feelings and teaching each person to acquire a sense of feeling safe and loved. The healing must be found in the heart, not the head.

• The avoidance or prevention of caregiver violence in common practices such as the use of isolation, time out, token economies, verbal reprimands, grabbing and shoving, physical management, mechanical restraint, cattle prods, chemical restraint, the ease of psychiatric hospitalization as a holding tank, and even phone calls to the police to “manage” someone through the use of stun guns and other methods of control.

• Practice, practice, practice. The best way to prevent harm is through a sharp focus on the tools that have been bestowed upon us. First, our intention has to be to bring and share the gifts of creating a sense of security and a feeling of being loved. Then, within these parameters, caregivers have to become intuitively practiced and skilled at teaching these good memories. This approach is in and of itself the most encompassing way to prevent violence.

John J. McGee, 2012

The Core of Gentle Teaching: Safe and Loved

Gentle Teaching is not about behavioural change.

It is not even about getting rid of behaviours. These will disappear or diminish as time goes by as a result of the person trusting us. It is not about any behavioural techniques that might be spelled out in a behaviour plan. If a caregiver enters anyone’s space with such intentions, the time spent will have nothing to do with Gentle Teaching. It is a contradiction to anxiously lead with an attitude of, “I have to change this behaviour or that one.”

The central and guiding focus for all caregivers is to help the person learn to feel safe and loved and this requires the prevention of any sort of harm. It is simply wise to not provoke any violence. Prevention gives caregivers the opportunity, space, and time to teach new memories of feeling safe and loved. Doing this dissipates or eliminates maladaptive behaviours as a direct result of feeling safe and loved. This has to be part and parcel of the caring community.

John J. McGee, 2012

Looking at Ourselves

As caregivers we need to talk among ourselves and develop a feeling of companionship and community so we can teach it to others. A first step is to look at our fears and get a feel for our interactions, and how others see them. We need to lift up our interactions that bring peace and serenity to others. We all have little ways of showing love. If we can highlight these, then we have taken a first step in the discovery of what care giving is about. We bring much to the care-giving act. Our presence needs to express our warmest caring. We need to be aware of the beautiful deeds that we do and deepen them. As caregivers, we need to find ways to share each other’s acts and remind one another what care giving is all about– giving a part of ourselves to others.

CHECKING OUT OUR OWN WAY

Self-assessment is a difficult task. We have to look at ourselves and discover our own weaknesses and take pride in our strengths. Finding our strengths is the easy part. The difficult part is to recognize our care giving needs. It is a human tendency to deny our weaknesses. So, we have to create a process in which we feel safe enough to examine ourselves and pinpoint areas to improve. What makes this even more difficult is that we have to see ourselves as those whom we serve see us.

We need to look at ourselves from the perspective of those who are obviously extremely vulnerable as well as from the perspective of those  “who know better.” It is sometimes easier to serve those who are more dependent or more obviously marginalized such as abused babies, orphans, abandoned children, and persons with severe disabilities.

Try to put yourself in the person’s shoes and sense what they are feeling: fear, disengagement, being unloved, and unable to convey a sense of love to others. Then look at yourself again and analyze your interactions. We need to realize that every move we make is an act of teaching. Our most subtle interactions are seen and interpreted by those whom we serve. Every interaction we express is a critical element in teaching companionship.

OUR VIEW OF OURSELVES

Purpose: Look at your own care giving interactions from the perspective of how the persons we serve see us. We assume that you feel that everyone feels safe with you and even loved by you. The challenge is to look at ourselves from the point of view of how the people we serve see us— people who are terrified and see little or no meaning in life or in us.

John J. McGee