In my years as a family therapist, I have found that four aspects of family life keep popping up in the troubled families who come to me for help. They are –
- the feeling and ideas on has about himself, which I call self-worth;
- the ways people work out to make meaning with one another, which I call communication;
- the rules people use for how they should feel and act, which eventually develop into what I call the family system; and
- the way people relate to other people and institutions outside the family, which I call the link to society.
No matter what kind of problem first led a family into my office – whether a nagging wife or an unfaithful husband, a delinquent son or a schizophrenic daughter – I soon found that the prescription was the same. To relieve their family pain, some way had to be found to change those four key factors. In all of these troubled families I noticed that –
- self worth was low;
- communication was indirect, vague, and not really honest;
- rules were rigid, inhuman, nonnegotiable, and everlasting; and
- the linking to society was fearful, placating, and blaming.
Fortunately, I have also had the joy of knowing some untroubled and nurturing families – especially in my more recent workshops to help families develop more fully their potential as human beings. In these vital and nurturing families, I consistently see a different pattern –
- self-worth is high;
- communication is direct, clear, specific, and honest;
- rules are flexible, human, appropriate, and subject to change; and
- the linking to society is open and hopeful.
excerpt from: Virginia Satir (1972) Peoplemaking.