Presenting (Surface) Problems over...
unhealthy compulsions (e.g.
problems with "moods," like
excessive fears, anger, or apathy
excessive social isolation
a range of psychosomatic illnesses
prolonged divorce conflict and
courtship, weddings, and cohabiting
conflicts between co-parents,
including re/marital and ex-mate conflicts
family membership (inclusion and
family role (responsibility)
inter-home and intra-home rules,
boundaries, and consequences
asset and debt ownership and
management, including child support
household geographic moves
stepparent-stepchild and stepsibling
roles and relations
relations between current and ex
relatives and in-laws
child discipline, visitations,
custody, education, and health care
family vacations, holidays, and
first and last names, and
legal parenting agreements
stepchild legal adoption
stepsibling and half-sibling
relations and favoritisms
family conflicts over religion, education,
psychological or legal (re)divorce,
and/or related legal suits
adult ignorance of effective
communication basics and problem-solving
skills - e.g. focusing on
surface needs; and...
adult ignorance of healthy grief
and how to spot and release blocked grief;
adult ignorance of stepfamily
unrealistic stepfamily expectations;
adult ignorance on how to
evaluate stepfamily information
and advice; and...
an inability to resolve significant
cooperation effectively; and...
unwise cohabiting and commitment (re/marital)
co-parent inability to spot and
informed family, community, and media co-parent
uninformed churches and clinicians
of the above,
Social unawareness and denials of the
pervasive [wounds + unawareness] cycle and its toxic
effects. This results in legally
unqualified (unwise) child conception,
relationships and families, and...
and resultant psychological wounding.
Pause, breathe, and notice your
Have you ever seen a proposal about problem-levels like this? Does it
seem reasonable? If so, what does it mean to the way you live and work?
Adopting the 3-level concept has implications for your personal life, your
clinical assessment and intervention schemes, your client goals and
strategies, and your clinical
you choose to ignore this 3-level concept in your work, you risk (a)
providing inferior or ineffective service, and (b) missing the chance to alert your clients to
this concept and improve their problem-solving effectiveness.
Ignoring or discounting this concept
suggests you may be controlled by a protective false self.
To benefit from this problem-level concept, you'll need to ...
accept (a) the universal reality of normal
true Self, false self, and psychological wounds and
and (b) what these
realities mean to you, your clients, your co-workers, and your
clinical work. Then you'll need to...
integrate these terms and concepts into your
thinking, clinical planning and practice, and communicating with clients
you see value in this 3-level concept, begin to include it in your work by using
some new terms with clients and co-workers - e.g. "problem levels,"
"this is a level-1 (or 2 or 3) problem," "surface problems and primary
problems," "dig down (from level-1)", "the [wounds + unawareness] cycle,"
and selected terms among those used in level 2 above - e.g. "Your stepfamily
loyalty conflict is a symptom of underlying primary problems."
If you're used to assessing your clients for level 1 or level 2 problems,
you'll need to expand that to also assess each client adult for any
primary (level 3) problems - e.g.
how wounded is this person (how often does a false self control
her or his personality), and (b)
how aware is s/he of that and what it
aware is this person of (a) the core level-2 topics above, and of
(b) which subselves govern his or her personality in calm and stressful
situations + what that means + real-time
Based on your assessments, you'll
then need to expand your set of intervention strategies to include
helping clients to...
see what topics they need to learn, and
motivating them to learn and apply the level-2 topics to reduce their
presenting problems; and help clients...
(a) become aware of their subselves, and (b)
explore which subselves are running their lives and whether they need to
do something about that.
Restated - if you fully adopt
the 3-level concept above, to provide effective clinical service you'll need
to commit to evolving competence at
inner-family systemic therapy ("parts work") as
of any client-family treatment plan. That means you'll need to want
to adopt a multi-modal (intrapsychic + dyadic + family-system) model of
clinical work. Notice you reaction to this proposal...
If you're a clinical supervisor,
consultant, trainer, case manager, program director, or policy maker, you'll
need to expand your way of thinking, speaking, and acting to integrate this
three-level concept with the people you live and work with.
You'll also need
to expand any in-service program in your
organization to include the ideas that comprise this 3-level model and your
version of these implications. To do
these things effectively, you'll need to want to become aware of how
often your true Self
your other subselves.
If you haven't recently, review these
presentations on basic ideas that comprise this clinical model. They
underlie the three-level concept here.
Review this article on surface and primary
needs, and see if it makes sense. Then imagine your clients' and
co-workers' reactions to this concept. Option - share and discuss
copies of the article with selected people and see how they react.
Even if you intuitively agree with the [wounds + unawareness]
and the 3-level concepts, your motivation to integrate these ideas into your
work depends on your trying the concepts and seeing what happens.
Identify several current personal problems in your life.
Try "digging down" to define (a) what
surface and primary needs are unfilled in you and any other people
involved - including kids, and (b) why you think they're
unfilled. Then see what happens if you apply the three-level concept in
this article to each of your "problems."
Adopt the open mind of a student, and
pick several current clients,
cases, or students. One at a time, review your current assessment of
their presenting and actual "problems." Then thoughtfully try
applying this three-level scheme to your assessment and treatment plans,
and imagine what might result. Option - try this exercise with
your supervisor or a in a case-consultation group, once the other
person/s are aware of the concept.
Ask your co-workers' and supervisor's reactions to the need-level and
problem-level concepts. As you do, assess whether you feel each person is
or not. If they're ruled by a
expect them to (a)
reject, discount, or resist the level concept, or (b) consciously accept and
endorse it, but not use it.
Clarify where you stand on the key ideas in this article. A = "I
agree;" D = "I disagree;" and ? = "I'm not sure yet," or "It
depends (on what?)."
I fully accept that
the personalities of normal people are comprised of semi-independent
subselves. (A D ?) If you disagree or aren't sure,
study this memo, and try this safe,
I can clearly describe and illustrate
the "dig down" relationship-skill
described in this non-profit Web site, and (b) I agree typical clients
can benefit from learning to apply it. (A D ?)
I fully accept that (a) human
personal and family "problems" are unmet needs (discomforts), (b) that
"neediness" is normal and inevitable, not "negative," and (c)
that human needs range between surface (superficial) and primary.
(A D ?)
Typical adults are over-busy, distracted, usually focus on their
and others' surface needs, and are unaware of
the underlying level-2 or level-3 problems outlined in this article.
(A D ?)
When the primary needs causing surface needs aren't discerned and
well-filled, related surface needs (symptoms) usually recur in various
forms. (A D ?)
I feel that (a) effective
requires all people involved to be (a)
by their true Selves, (b) clearly aware of their own and the others'
(vs. surface) needs, and (c) to value them all
motivated now to experiment with integrating the personality-subself and
three-level concepts into my clinical work with an open mind and
noting the results, over time. If not, I know why. (A D ?)
I know how to
whether my true Self is responding to this status check or not.
If not, I know which
are responding, and why. (A D
This article builds on the idea that human "problems" are unfilled needs
- emotional, physical, and spiritual discomforts. It proposes that typical unaware clients seek
professional help to resolve surface needs, or symptoms of primary
needs. The article
proposes two deeper levels of problems that cause the surface (presenting) problems.
Many of the level-2 problems above are common in typical divorcing families and stepfamilies.
Two universal primary (level-3)
problems in any typical client adult are (a) being often
controlled by a protective
and not knowing that or what it
and (b) being unaware
of their present-moment feelings,
a group of vital
and of their unawareness.
The article summarizes key clinical implications of this three problem-level
concept, and suggests ways of integrating the concept into your professional
paradigm and work. The article closes with several key options for learning
and applying the ideas that comprise the concept.
Note these related Web
articles for lay people:
surface and primary
why and how to "dig
down" to discern current primary needs,
this three problem-level
this scheme for
effectively filling current primary needs - i.e. for win-win
+ + +
Pause, breathe, and reflect - what are your subselves thinking and feeling
now? Did you get what you needed from reading this article? If so, what do
you need to do next? If not,
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