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A Conversation with a COR Support…

Describe a place or time where Gentle Teaching has helped you in your personal life.

This hits home to me! I am so blessed to be a part of COR; I have grown so much both within this organization and outside it. I truly saw myself becoming a better person and becoming a role model at home, at school, and at work every day. Gentle Teaching has definitely allowed me to learn more about myself!

I truly saw myself becoming a better person and becoming a role model at home, at school, and at work every day. Gentle Teaching has definitely allowed me to learn more about myself

Tell us about a bond that you or someone close to you shares with someone you support.

I have bonded well with all the individuals I support. When I come to their home for a support time, I feel as though I am invited to be there. Every time I walk into their house, I feel that I am coming home to my family or that I am coming into a house of close friends. I am grateful for the opportunity that COR has provided me to develop the relationships that I currently hold with every individual that I support.

 

Discuss a scenario where someone you support taught you something.

Recently, one of the individuals I support decided to manage his paycheck and put the money toward future plans and paying his bills. This was a rare occasion because in the past, his paycheck would be gone within a day or two from social outings alone. It was the first time that I had witnessed him making a plan with his paycheck and his willingness to learn to budget his money was amazing. From that moment, he unknowingly taught me that you can always grow and become a better person! It was a humbling experience to be able to see a 31-year-old man literally grow in front of your eyes. He has grown so much since I met him and I can truly say that I’ve watched him grow each day. It’s unbelievable!

It’s amazing to see that the individuals that I support are so passionate about so many things

How has Gentle Teaching transformed the person you are or aspire to be?

Like I mentioned earlier, using the Gentle Teaching approach to supporting individuals has allowed me to become a better person than I had ever imagined. My Mom has mentioned to me a couple times where she sees the growth in me and she was proud of how far I have come. My parents were worried about me when I was in grade 9 and 10 because I had the attitude and the personality of someone who was not capable of success. So for them to be able to witness my character grow so much, it’s a sigh of relief for them for sure.

 

Describe how you have been able to share one (or some) of your passions with the individuals we serve.

First off, it’s amazing to see that the individuals that I support are so passionate about so many things. Being able to share my passions with the individuals have definitely helped with the friendship that has developed. For example, one of the men and I share a passion for hockey. I know that whenever he is having a rough day, I can always bring up hockey topics and news and we can have a long-lasting conversation about it. There was a moment where he and I were at a Pats game and I remember thinking that our relationship had come a long way since we met. The Pats scored a goal, I looked over and he had a huge smile on his face and he ‘fist pumped’ full of excitement. He never does this! This truly was a special moment. It touched my heart to see how joyful he was to be experiencing the Pats playoff run with me.

 

Jason, COR Support

 

Who am I to come into this person’s home with demands and unrealistic expectations?

I consistently strive to build and maintain a culture of gentleness among the individuals I support and spend time with. When I am in someone’s home I try to put myself in their shoes. Who am I to come into this person’s home with demands and unrealistic expectations? Trying to be mindful of what I say/how I say it and how I present myself to the person receiving support is always at the forefront of my thoughts. By using the four tools (presence, eyes, hands, and words) positively, I continually try to build on the relationships I share with the individuals I serve.

I continually try to build on the relationships I share with the individuals I serve

Ensuring that person feels safe where they are and who they’re with is an important first step. Afterwards is the point at which the person can begin to be stretched and grow. Remembering that the relationship I have with the person I’m supporting is one of interdependence, allows me to teach as well as learn. This is an attitude that I attempt to maintain both within COR with the individuals being supported as well as in my other social circles.

 

Jordan, COR Support

 

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

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

Brian Calley’s Remarks at the 2014 Culture of Gentleness Conference

An inspiring speech by Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley given during the 2014 COG Conference in Michigan, USA.

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”

It’s all about your pace.

Have you ever stopped to think about the way that you walk?

I know that it is a strange question and if you chose to stop reading here I would likely understand. But  I promise you, I’m on to something. Now I am not talking about the physicality of your walk: do hips sway with a hoola-hoop like action, or is one leg shorter than the other causing a noticeable limp. More so, when you walk with a friend or companion, do you walk as if it is the end of the world and speed to wherever your destination may be or do you walk intentionally taking in your surroundings and the conversation that you may be having.

For the past three years I have been married to the love of my life. It has been an incredible adventure and we have enjoyed every minute of it: including the bountiful walks that we have taken. However one of the things that I noticed early on into our marriage is that my wife walks as if she is an Olympian speed walker–it eventually got to the point where I had to tenderly grab her hand and ask her to slow down. To ally my naysayers out there, it wasn’t because I couldn’t keep up to her, rather I didn’t like the feeling of being rushed in moments where I felt like I could relax.

I have been thinking about this idea of “pace” for a long time and it finally struck me: the way we pace ourselves not only determines when we finish the proverbial race, but also how we finish it.  As supports, friends, family and others associated with COR and the Gentle Teaching movement has this idea fully penetrated our hearts and minds, thus being embodied in our words and actions?  I ask this because I was convicted about it in my own heart, when I began noticing the young man that I support was always a few steps behind me. At first I didn’t think much of it, but as time passed I was frustrated: not at him, but myself. I had become the ‘Olympian’, though accomplishing much, missing the view.

So do me a favor, after reading this blog: stop whatever you are doing and ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What is the pace you are moving at?
  2. Are you noticing the ‘view’ and slowing down to assist others?
  3. Take a few moments to review the four tools of Gentle Teaching  and honestly ask yourself how you are doing in each of the following areas.

a)Loving Eyes/Gaze

b) Hands

c) Loving Words

d) Loving Presence

 

Ben, COR Support

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

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