“My personal ideas and understanding of spirituality began with my own experience as a child, growing up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin (USA). Everywhere I saw growing things. Very early, I understood that growth was life force revealing itself, a manifestation of spirit… it is the realization that we are spiritual beings in human form. This is the essence of spirituality. The challenge of becoming more fully human is to be open to and to contact that power we call by many names, God being one frequently used. I believe that successful living depends on our making and accepting a relationship to our life force.”
(Virginia Satir, in her book ‘The New Peoplemaking’)
Change and personal transformation are two key concepts in the career of the writer and psychotherapist Virginia Satir (1916-1988), especially applied to family therapy. In the excerpt we have just read, we can notice she was a curious and aware of the environment person, which is quite correct, since Satir learnt to read by herself by the time she was only three years-old, and also stated that at five she could already make connections within the relationships of families she knew.
Thus, we see that her work was deeply vocational. Her family was a modest one, and in order to graduate (in Education), she agreed to work part-time and to study the maximum of subjects in a short period of time. Having also achieved a Masters in Social Work from the University of Chicago, she began soon after to private practice in family therapy, which years later led her to found the California Mental Research Institute.
In her brilliant career she was acknowledged with numerous awards and honoris causa degrees. And, the great contribution of Virginia Satir to Psychology and personal development is a change model that is based on the humanity of the individual: if the person is freed from their fears and their courage and their ability to live are awakened, this allows transformation, to “become fully human”, in Satir’s words. Taking as a starting point an individual, this transformation goes to occur in the family and in other human groups, organizations, as well. It is a model applicable from the family to the company and the whole of humanity and that pursues harmonious relationships. The connection to our consciousness and what limits us or encourages us gives us the power to decide, manage and transform our inner and outer reality in a positive way.
Hence this pioneered therapist noted that apparent problems were a manifestation of what the patient truly blocked inside, often linked with negative family experiences. That is the reason why Satir brought the therapy to the entire family unit, beyond the individual. Books like ‘Step by Step: A Guide to Create Change in Families’, ‘Self Esteem’ and ‘Conjoint Family Therapy’ have made her theories popular, and related to worldwide. We would like to highlight some texts that reflect the strengths of these theories:
We must not allow other people’s limited perceptions to define us.
We can learn something new anytime we believe we can.
Problems are not the problem; coping is the problem.
I Am Me
In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me.
Everything that comes out of me is authentically me
Because I alone chose it –I own everything about me:
My body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice, all my actions,
Whether they be to others or to myself –I own my fantasies,
My dreams, my hopes, my fears –I own all my triumphs and
Successes, all my failures and mistakes because I own all of
Me, I can become intimately acquainted with me –by so doing
I can love me and be friendly with me in all my parts –I know
There are aspects about myself that puzzle me, and other
Aspects that I do not know –but as long as I am
Friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously
And hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles
And for ways to find out more about me –However I
Look and sound, whatever I say and do, and whatever
I think and feel at a given moment in time is authentically
Me –If later some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought
And felt turn out to be unfitting, I can discard that which is
Unfitting, keep the rest, and invent something new for that
Which I discarded –I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do
I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be
Productive to make sense and order out of the world of
People and things outside of me –I own me, and
therefore I can engineer me –I am me and
I AM OKAY.
I want to love you without clutching,
appreciate you without judging,
join you without invading,
invite you without demanding,
leave you without guilt,
criticize you without blaming,
and help you without insulting.
If I can have the same from you, then we can truly meet and enrich each other.
Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible —the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family.
The Five Freedoms are:
The freedom to see and hear what is here, instead of what “should” be, was, or will be.
The freedom to say what you feel and think, instead of what you “should” feel and think.
The freedom to feel what you feel, instead of what you “ought” to feel.
The freedom to ask for what you want, instead of always waiting for permission.
The freedom to take risks on you own behalf, instead of choosing to be only “secure”.
In moments of unhappiness, when the world seems empty, we often abandon ourselves and fly away from this show of a paralytic, negative Self, to find out what can only be found inside ourselves. Connect with oneself and with others is not a game that consists of scoring a goal and living happily ever after… It is a way to maintain our integrity and nurture our self esteem while growing and, ultimately, to strengthen the relationships with yourself and others… In so far as this is feasible, the greater the possibility of being loved, being healthy and learning to solve our problems more efficiently.
I wish you all a happy week.
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