Help clients understand and break the lethal [wounds
+ unawareness] cycle!
- p. 3 of 4
By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council
The Web address of this
four-page article is
continued from p. 2
Awareness of Their Awareness
For perspective, read this, and
imagine how clients would react to it.
Why? To (a) focus clients on on their degree of personal awareness, (b)
provide a conceptual framework for communication awareness, and (c)
encourage adults to teach this concept to minor kids and others.
Awareness skill underlies all six other Lesson-2 skills, and provides
the input to Metatalk, which promotes resolving communication
Ask the clients to describe their
current definition of awareness. Edit that as needed to something
like "General awareness is being able to consciously identify and
describe what's going on (a) inside you and (b) around you now and
in the past." Option - illustrate this by asking the client
to describe their current awareness, and/or describing your
current and past awarenesses.
Propose that personal and
environmental awareness has two parts: (a) bodily sensations ("I
smell smoke."), and (b) mental interpretation of - and reactions to
- these sensations ("The roast may be burning. I'd better check the
awareness is among the the
most useful skills any adult or child can develop, for it...
is the basis of noting current emotional, physical, and spiritual
discomforts (needs) and satisfactions (filled needs),
provides vital perceptions of important
relationship dynamics (like empathy), and...
illuminates potential or current
personal and social dangers, which allows making behavioral choices.
Option - ask the clients for examples of this, and/or
describe your own examples.
that observing, mediation, journaling, and asking others
for feedback are some
ways of intentionally gaining awareness. Option - ask
clients if they use strategies like these, and if so, why.
Note the difference between
awareness (instinctive senses, intuitions,
perceptions), and interpretations of what current perceptions
that our culture (a) doesn't generally promote developing personal
awareness, and (b) ceaselessly hinders it by flooding us with
sensory information via printed, radio, TV, movie, and Internet
stimulations, so (c) some (aware) people pay to experience
"retreats" - refuges from "sensory overload" and periods of "greater
inner peace." Option - ask clients if their children are
being taught to value and increase personal awareness in their lay
and religious schools and other activities.
A priceless metaskill anyone
can develop intentionally over time is "awareness of my awareness -
now, and over time."
Doing this is a major focus of some religious/spiritual practices,
like Zen Buddhism, Quaker worship services, and Native American
Propose that a powerful special learned awareness is
consciously perceiving a discrete communication
- including strengths
& - among (a) subselves and (b) people.
Alert clients to the difference between
what we're communicating about (the subjects or topics),
communicating - now, and over time.
Summarize the skill of metatalk
(i.e. using a special vocabulary to communicate cooperatively about
our communication process and outcomes). Note that
provides input to metatalk, which is the first step in identifying
and resolving communication blocks. Illustrate this as appropriate,
using clients' process examples. See intervention 2-20.
Discuss how client adults can
help each other - and other family members - increase their general
and communication awarenesses, and invite clients to identify the
benefits from doing so.
Describe and facilitate this
awareness practice, and
suggest clients use it together at home.
Follow up on these interventions
in future sessions to monitor and affirm - or problem-solve blocks
to - clients' developing their awarenesses. Watch for opportunities
to model and describe this skill and the results from doing so.
Define and illustrate clear and "fuzzy"
thinking. For perspective, first read
this &, and imagine clients'
reaction to doing so.
Why do this multi-step intervention? To (a) have client adults
experience and identify how they
think in calm and conflictual times, (b) to propose that they can
intentionally learn to think more clearly and effectively when they need
to, and (c) to expand their metatalk vocabulary. Clear thinking is vital for effective problem-solving with
subselves and people.
Create interest. Ask clients to
(a) think of someone they respect as a "clear thinker;" and then to
(b) rank the effectiveness of their own thinking in most situations
from one (very effective all the time) to ten (very ineffective
most of the time.
- ask if clients would want to significantly improve the
effectiveness of their thinking if they could. Options - ask
caregivers if (a) they'd like to show dependent kids how to think
effectively, over time; and/or (b) whether their childhood
caregivers and mentors taught them how to think effectively. Expect "No."
Ask clients to describe their
definitions of (a) thinking, (b) why we think ("What
would you say is the purpose of thinking - what needs does it
fill?"); and (c) how they distinguish
effective thinking from ineffective thinking. Expect most clients to not know.
Illustrate these questions as appropriate.
If appropriate, (a) suggest that
thinking is normal evidence of the ceaseless communication
and (b) recall that
communication is a reflexive attempt to
fill current needs (reduce current discomforts). Option
- Note that thinking + hunches, senses, and instincts can be called
Confirm that most people
are so used to their ceaseless self talk that they (i.e. their
ruling subselves) are usually unaware of it. Suggest that a useful
aspect of the learned skill of
awareness is to practice
awareness of current and chronic self talk. Options - (a)
objectively describe your current self talk; (b) ask each client to
describe their current self talk nonjudgmentally now, and (c)
guesstimate which subselves are "speaking." in you and/or them.
that thinking seeks to...
interpret meanings from our
ceaselessly-changing inner + outer environments,
translate those meanings into coherent
survey, evaluate, and choose ways to
fill those needs well enough, causing..
decisions and related behaviors
See how the clients feel about this
proposal, and note whether their true Selves seem to be in charge or
in any situation and relationship,
between effective (getting primary needs met well enough) and
ineffective, or fuzzy (not doing so);
effective thinking is a learned skill,
so clients can choose to
improve theirs over time; and...
clear (vs. "fuzzy") thinking is required
for effective win-win problem-solving.
Ask how clients feel about these
empathically, and discuss as needed.
if clients are aware of thinking more effectively in some
relationships and situations than others, and if so, why.
Option - propose a
direct relationship between the true Self
other subselves and effective thinking.
Propose that ways clients can intentionally improve the
effectiveness of their thinking in important situation and
increase the times their true Selves are guiding their other
subselves (work at Lesson 1 tasks);
patiently increase the scope and
clarity of their inner and social
learning to identify and avoid (a) general and/or vague terms and
in important communications - specially pronouns like it, them,
that, and they or their;
respectfully asking communication
partners to clarify vague words and phrases or pronouns;
intentionally using hearing checks to
discern whether their partners are clear enough on (vs. agreeing with)
what you're trying to express now.
clients a copy of
this three-page worksheet and
& on thinking
and discuss it with them.
Follow up across future sessions
to see if clients are working at clarifying their thinking in
important situations. If not, suspect a false self is promoting
other priorities ("What could be more important than thinking
clearly?"), and decide whether to tell the clients your opinion.
Describe, illustrate, and model
empathic listening skill. My thanks to Stephen Covey for this descriptive term. For perspective, first read
and imagine how clients would react to reading it.
Why? All kids and adults need to feel
clearly (vs. agreed with) by other people to fill current
communication and other needs. Few lay adults and no kids are taught how
to be effective listeners - they don't know what they don't know,
because they lack (a) awareness of their
communication process, and (b) they don't know how to listen
effectively. Reality-check this against your own experience.
Ask clients to think of someone
they would describe as (a) a consistently effective (vs.
"good") listener, and (b) a consistently ineffective (vs. "poor")
listener. The ask them to describe what traits cause them to make
each of these judgments.
Ask clients (a) who they feel is
the most effective listener in their home and family, and (b) how
they would rank their own effectiveness on a scale of one ("I never
listen to others") to ten ("I'm a skilled listener to others all the
time"). Option - ask clients how other family adults and kids
would rate them as an effective listener in calm and conflictual
Ask if clients have ever
taken any class or seminar on effective listening, and if so,
to define what they learned. Option - note that this skill
has also been called Reflective and Active listening
Ask clients (a) to describe their
definition of empathy, and (b) if they know someone
who is often very empathic (including themselves). Option - distinguish
empathy from sympathy.
Refresh clients as needed on (a)
respect, (b) the idea of mutual-respect
attitudes, and (c) R(espect) messages. Option - suggest
stable, genuine mutual-respect attitudes are most likely when the
true Self is guiding a person's other subselves.
illustrate the steps to
empathic listening. Ask clients (a) if these steps "make
sense," and (b) how they compare with their usual listening habits.
Option - give the clients a copy of
this and discuss it.
Role play one or more uses of
this skill, coaching clients on their effectiveness. (e.g. "Try to
(a) include what your partner is feeling, and to (b) sense
and summarize what your partner is saying between their
lines'"). Use client examples and/or the session's process.
intentionally using this skill in important transactions as
doing a hearing check
(or equivalent), and note the options of (a) asking your partner for
such a check ("What do you feel I'm trying to express here?" vs.
"Are you listening to me?"), and (b) spontaneously providing
such checks as appropriate.
a sign of an effective hearing check
is the speaker nodding and/or saying something like "Uh huh,"
"Yeah," and "Right, and...";
feeling respectfully heard (and not
advised, interrupted, and judged), speakers will often want to
continue. This is useful with people who "are very private" and
"don't talk much."
two benefits of well-designed
hearing checks are...
the speaker may get clearer on
what s/he meant by hearing you say it back, and...
s/he may realize that what s/he
said wasn't what s/he really wanted to express ("No, what I
Communication experts Bob and Dorothy
Bolton suggest telling clients that empathic listening "brings out
the FY sisters - Clara(fy) and Vera(fy)."
Option - give the client a copy
Follow up in future sessions to
see if clients are helping each other use empathic listening
effectively, and if so, what the results are. Ignoring this and
other communication skills usually suggests a false self dominates
one or more client adults. If this is true, decide if and
when to focus on Lesson 1 interventions.
Down" to Primary Needs
Define, illustrate, and model
"dig-down" skill. For perspective, read
first, and imagine how clients would react to the ideas and examples in it.
Why? Because most people unconsciously focus on
trying to fill surface needs (symptoms), not the primary needs that
cause them. This (a) promotes ineffective problem-solving (the symptoms
returning), frustration, and
self-doubt and/or blaming others; and (b) gets passed on to minor kids.
(a) Review and illustrate that
people communicate to fill current
and (b) refresh clients on the idea of
Option - give clients a copy of
and discuss it with them.
Propose that like most people,
the clients are probably used to trying to fill surface needs and
mixed results at best. Ideally, illustrate this with an example of a recent
marital or family "problem" from the client, using examples in
this overview as a guide. With each
illustration, ask "Did each person
involved (a) know their primary needs, and (b) fill them well
enough after communicating?"
Describe and illustrate dig-down
skill, using the same examples as the prior step and/or one
or more of the client's presenting problems. Emphasize that for
best outcomes, participants need to rank
each other's needs and dignity as equally important, and ask if
that's the client's usual attitude in conflictual situations.
Ask clients their reaction to digging down. If they feel something like "this is too
complicated" ask how they overcame the
complexity of driving a vehicle (or some other challenging activity), a
step at a time.
If you're working with two or
more client family members, invite them to choose a moderate
problem, and try the skill. Coach them as needed, and ask what they
experienced after they finish. Option - ask clients how they
think each dependent child and other co-parent/s will react to
trying to dig down.
Note that digging down
uses awareness (of current needs and
behavioral sequences) and empathic listening to
provide the input to
assertion and problem solving (below)
Ask if clients are clear on this
skill and answer any questions. Then do more role-plays and practices
if/as needed, and ask if clients want to try these skills at home.
Follow up with clients in future
sessions to see if they're trying to apply these skills and teach
them to other family members. If not, (a) suspect one or more adults
are ruled by a false self, and (b) repeat any of these steps as
needed to promote the clients' experiencing the benefits of
the skills in reducing their presenting and other problems.
Define, illustrate, and model effective
For perspective, first read this
imagine clients' reactions to doing so.
Why? Assertion is the learned skill that uses personal and
and empathic listening to...
identify and express current
perceptions, opinions, and needs to others, including...
setting and enforcing personal
problem-solving among subselves and people.
Typical adults and kids can't clearly define
and/or differentiate it from
you?). They can significantly improve their assertion effectiveness if (a) they accept some version of these
and (b) their true Self guides their other personality subselves (Lesson 1).
Refresh the clients as needed on
the concepts of personality subselves and true and false
the client to (a) describe their definitions of submission
(my needs and worth are less important to me now than yours)
(my needs and worth are
more important to me
now than yours), and
effective assertion (we each get
enough of our current needs met in an acceptable way); and edit
them as needed.
effective assertion (all participants get their
current needs met well enough),
and (b) describe and (c) illustrate the
steps of effective
assertion. Then (d) assess the clients' understanding of and
reactions to these ideas, and how they compare with their recent
Ask the client on a scale of one
(never effective) to ten (always effective), how they rank
themselves recently as asserters (a) in calm and (b) conflictual
situations. Options - ask them...
to thoughtfully fill out this
and discuss what they learn;
what they think would happen if they
became more effective asserters;
how they rank each of their minor
kids on the 1-to-10 assertion-effectiveness scale; and...
what they're doing about that.
Ask clients to (a) identify kids
or adults they have trouble asserting effectively with (without
blame), and (b) their (subselves') attitudes about whose dignity,
worth, and needs usually rank highest with each such person.
illustrate, and model
(vs. provocative you messages) as an effective way of
respectfully stating current needs and boundaries to adults and
Review and illustrate the idea of
and illustrate how awareness + effective assertion + empathic
listening + metatalk skills combine to promote effective problem
solving, and ask if clients agree with this.
Give clients a copy of this
article, and discuss and apply it
Ask clients to identify recent
"problems" (unfilled needs) with their family members or coworkers,
and role-play using effective awareness, dig-down, assertion, and
empathic-listening skills to get better outcomes.
Option - describe and illustrate
this assertion practice
and suggest clients use it at home as teammates.
Follow up in later sessions to
see if clients are working to help each other assert more
effectively, and if so, what results are they experiencing.
Problem Solving (Conflict
Define, illustrate, and
model effective problem-solving. For perspective, read
and review this slide presentation.
Then imagine clients' reactions to doing the same.
A fundamental factor shaping the
stability and nurturance level of inner and outer families is the
learned ability to identify and reduce or resolve "problems" - i.e. to
and fill each person's current needs "well enough." Most
lay and many clinical adults are unaware of how to do this effectively,
because they're ignorant of (a) their and their partners' primary needs,
and of (b) the great benefits of these seven effective-communication
Review (a) the idea of surface
and primary needs (discomforts), and that (b) effective
com-munication aims to fill each person's current primary needs
"well enough." Note and affirm clients' reactions to these ideas,
and reinforce the concepts as needed.
Propose that like
most people, the clients have probably never been encouraged to (a) identify current
needs, and/or to (b) differentiate between surface (secondary) and
primary needs. Validate that respectfully with the clients. Option - ask if their respective childhood caregivers and their
ancestors knew how
to do these things. Expect "No."
the premise that every
adult and child is a person of equal dignity and worth, and that
effective problem-solving requires clients (dominant subselves) to
want to adopt this attitude. Not doing so results in broadcasting
1-up or 1-down
communication effectiveness and relationships.
conflicts or problems are
opposing and/or unfilled primary needs (a) betwen personal subselves
and (b) between the subselves of two or more people.
problem-solving is the process of
identifying and filling each subself's or person's primary needs
"well enough" (as judged by them);
win-win problem-solving occurs
when each subself or person feels their current needs were filled
well enough, in ways that were acceptable enough to everyone
involved. Alternatives are win-lose, lose-win, and lose-lose. And...
effective (win-win) social problem-solving requires each person to
(a) be guided by their true Self, and (b) first resolve any
significant inner conflicts first. This requires undistracted
awareness and all six other communication skills.
Most unaware people automatically try
ineffective problem-solving strategies like
despite consistently dissatisfying outcomes. This is usually because
(a) they're unaware of being controlled by a false self, and (b)
they don't know these seven skills. This significantly lowers
relationship and family nurturance levels - and can be corrected!
Ask the clients if this is generally true among their subselves and
to effective problem solving, and ask clients' reactions to
them - including how the steps compare to the clients' usual
conflict-resolution behaviors. Emphasize that this skill uses
fluency in all six other skills to achieve win-win outcomes.
Role play the steps with several
of the clients' presenting (surface) problems, and ask what clients
are aware of as they do this.
Watch for chances during each
session to invite clients to practice win-win internal and mutual
problem-solving, coach them to improve, and affirm their efforts and
Give clients copies of (or refer
them to the Web versions) of these examples of
communications, and discuss their reactions. Invite them to show
the examples to other family adults and older kids to raise their
Give clients copies of this
and practice exercise
and (a) use one or both in session and/or (b) suggest clients use
them at home.
Recap that the main
purpose of communicating and problem solving is to help subselves
and people fill their primary needs in satisfying ways more often.
Follow up in future sessions to
see if clients are helping each other practice win-win
problem-solving, and (if so) what results they're experiencing -
specially with their presenting problems.
Option - propose that
clients can be a major help to friends,
relatives, and others in their workplaces and community
or region by choosing to teach their family, co-workers,
and other people about (a) the [wounds + unawareness]
and (b) the major personal and social benefits of these
powerful communication skills.
Pause and reflect on how your subselves
about what you just read, and whether they're motivated now to use these
ideas and interventions in your personal and professional settings. If
not, you may be a
controlled by a
well-meaning, protective false self. reality check - what would
you say is more important than helping people learn how to fill their
current needs more effectively more often?
Continue with more skill-building and selected
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April 30, 2013