|Management of Measurement Constructs
The Values of Bombs Going Off
Many years ago I said (preached) quite often that a bomb could off in the next room or out in the street and I wouldn't drop a word or miss a beat. This was a confident assertion of expanded awareness: I tried always to assimilate more in my presence than simply where I was or what I was doing; the expanded awareness would help be hold my poise no matter what occurred.
This confidence buttressing mantra was born on the opera stage [I was an opera singer for some 20 years] where one must be perpetually aware that something unexpected can occur and mess things up. One had to be constantly prepared to adapt, to adjust, to take any such occurrence in stride and keep the show going.
I had a second maxim of which I was most fond: no event has any value until one gives it value.
**I speak of these two behavioral guidelines in the past tense only because I formulated them thirty years ago. Their operational strength has been thoroughly assimilated within me over a long period of time and endures strongly today.
Now, look how they work together: a bomb could go off 'over there' and I have a choice of how I will react. I can become shocked (run for your life!), fearful (are we under attack?), curious (what could that be?), blase (maybe explosions go off all the time), or pleased (that blighted slum building is finally coming down!), etc.. How do choose the reaction that will be most important to progress?
How often do we find ourselves helping clients to re-evaluate occurrences in life development, to understand things from different perspectives, to adjust values carried forward from difficult, challenging happenings?
Psychologist and prolific author Jeffrey Kottler writes about this clearly: "The job of a therapist is to help people make new, more useful interpretations of their tragedies and disappointments. We are the ones charged with helping people to create meaning out of their life experiences, to recover from setbacks by choosing more desirable interpretations of what transpired. … Our job is to help people see their heart attacks or avalanches as opportunities for growth rather than signals of their impending demise." [Making Changes Last, Brunner-Routledge, Philadelphia 2001, page 25]
It is extremely helpful, very often, to ask your client, "What would be another evaluation …a different evaluation… of this way your wife behaves toward you?" Or "… of your father's avoidance of the problems presented by your mother's alcoholism?" --By seeking out another basis for event evaluation, the client is urged to empathize within the situation, to consider other viewpoints, to study the concerns of others. Almost invariably, the personal burden is lifted, the darkness is lifted. There is very often some compassion, a removal of personal blame perhaps, a release of self-punishment.
'The bombs' can be exploding routinely -or whenever the bomb will explode again- but a fresh value reaction is given to the occurrence.
So frequently, I help clients come up with new perspectives that are extremely helpful to them. These perspectives basically rest on conjecture that others have/had problems too, that projections or displacement of difficulty onto the client is/was defensive behavior by the significant other and not personal attack. How very often in deep discussion of parental relationship upset, for example, the fulcrum comment leading to new perspective, new evaluation was, "Let me suggest that -knowing all this now-you were simply caught up in their traffic pattern." …Quite a different way of seeing a heretofore deeply personalized situation.
Next Update: September 28, 2001